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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 May 2007, 00:26 GMT 01:26 UK
US 'al-Qaeda' doctor found guilty
Court illustration of Rafiq Abdus Sabir
Sabir said he had misunderstood the pledge due to limited Arabic
A Florida doctor has been convicted of supporting al-Qaeda by pledging allegiance to the group and agreeing to treat its wounded fighters.

Rafiq Abdus Sabir, 52, was found guilty of conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qaeda by a federal court.

He was recorded making a pledge to an FBI agent posing as an al-Qaeda recruiter during a sting operation.

During the trial, Sabir said he had not realised that "Sheikh Osama" referred to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Sabir also testified that he had misunderstood the word al-Qaeda because of his limited Arabic.

Pledges

The doctor said he had thought that the oath - made in a New York flat in May 2005 - was merely a "bayat", a general Islamic declaration.

He said he only agreed to help treat injured al-Qaeda fighters because of his medical obligation to treat everyone.

After the verdict, Sabir's lawyers said he was "deeply disappointed".

"It is another example of the erosion of constitutional rights that we suffer post-9/11," lawyer Ed Wilford said.

New-York born Sabir could face a maximum of 30 years in jail.

Sabir's best friend, jazz musician and martial arts expert, Tariq Shah, who made the same pledges, pleaded guilty ahead of the trial to providing material support to a terrorist organisation.

He has agreed to serve 15 years in prison, though he has yet to be formally sentenced.


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