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Al Qaeda sleeper agent sentenced to eight years in prison

Ali Saleh Al-Marri, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to Al Qaeda, could have got 15 years. But the federal judge took into account the almost six years he was held without charge as an enemy combatant in a military prison.

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Attorney Andy Savage, left, approaches the US District Courthouse in Peoria, Ill. with the rest of the defense team Wednesday, for the sentencing hearing of their client, Ali Saleh Al-Marri. Al-Marri faces a possible maximum sentence of 15 years for providing material support to Al-Qaeda.

David Zalaznik/Peoria Journal Star/AP

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An admitted Al Qaeda sleeper agent who arrived in the US one day before the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison on Thursday.

Ali Saleh Al-Marri of Qatar and Saudi Arabia had faced up to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty in April to a single count of conspiring to provide material support to Al Qaeda.

During a two-day sentencing hearing in federal court in Peoria, Ill., Mr. Al-Marri's lawyers urged US District Judge Michael Mihm to hand down a lighter sentence in recognition that Al-Marri had been held without charge as an enemy combatant for more than six years in a military prison. They said he had been subjected to periods of extreme isolation and deprivation as part of a military interrogation plan to force him to confess his involvement with Al Qaeda.

Al-Marri was one of three individuals held at the US Naval brig at Charleston, S.C., under controversial circumstances. All three were subjected to harsh interrogation tactics.

Lawyers had been fighting for years to get Al-Marri's case before the US Supreme Court. They argued that his open-ended detention without charge was illegal and unconstitutional. Last year, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, but before the arguments could be made the government and Al-Marri's lawyers agreed to a plea bargain.

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