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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 March 2007, 19:17 GMT
US ex-imam jailed over fake plot
Munir Akram, Pakistan's permanent representative to the United Nations
Munir Akram was the target of the fictional plot
The former imam of a mosque in the US state of New York has been jailed for 15 years after being caught in a sting operation involving a fake plot.

Yassin Aref was convicted in October along with Mohammed Hossain, who is still awaiting sentence.

The two men had agreed to take part in the plot, which appeared to target Pakistan's ambassador to the UN.

They were convicted among other things of supporting terrorism, lying to FBI agents and money laundering.

In a speech before the sentencing, Aref claimed he was innocent.

"I swear to God, I had no intention to harm anyone in this country," he said. "I don't know why I am guilty."

The plot

The plot involved an FBI informant pretending to be an illegal arms dealer.

He asked Hossain to launder money from the sale of a shoulder-fired missile which was to be used for an assassination of the Pakistani ambassador to the United Nations, Munir Akram.

Aref acted as a witness to the transactions.

Assistant US Attorney William Pericak argued that Mr Hossain wanted money, while Mr Aref was prompted by ideological reasons.

The men's defence said the transactions were innocent, noting that Muslims often lend money to each other with clerics watching as witnesses. Mr Aref and Mr Hossain claim they did not believe the plot involving a missile.

When the men were arrested in 2004, US Deputy Attorney General James Comey stressed they had not been engaged in a terrorist act.

But he went on to claim they were willing to assist someone who they believed to be involved in what he called "pretty bad stuff".

When the plot came to light Pakistan protested that the US had endangered Mr Akram's life.

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