From the Daily News:
On the eve of his terrorism trial, an American student who studied in London admitted Tuesday that he helped a friend deliver some protective clothing to an al-Qaida military commander fighting Americans in Afghanistan.
The plea by Syed Hashmi to a single count of conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qaida was entered in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, averting a trial that was supposed to begin Wednesday.
As part of a plea deal that will require prosecutors to drop three other terrorism charges at his June 7 sentencing, Hashmi agreed to serve 15 years in prison. He has already served four years, at least three of them in solitary confinement at a federal lockup in lower Manhattan.
The 30-year-old Hashmi had faced up to 70 years in prison if convicted of four criminal counts.
"He'll be out of prison before he's 40 and have his whole life in front of him," defense attorney David Ruhnke said outside court.
Hashmi, born in Karachi, Pakistan, was raised in Flushing, Queens. He obtained his bachelor's degree in political science from Brooklyn College before moving to London in 2003 to study at London Metropolitan University, where he got a master's degree in international relations in 2006.
The government's handling of Hashmi has been accompanied by an unusual outpouring of support for Hashmi from family, friends and civil rights groups that insisted he was being prosecuted because he had been outspoken against U.S. policies in the Middle East.
Prosecutors had planned at his trial to show jurors an excerpt of a five-minute videotape that they say shows Hashmi leading a June 2002 protest in Manhattan by an Islamic fundamentalist organization whose members support al-Qaida and seek the overthrow of Western society. The government said Hashmi, among other things, said "Bin Laden is not a terrorist."