June 29, 2010, 9:47 AM
By A. G. SULZBERGER
Updated, 3:18 p.m. | A Guyanese man charged with participating in an international plot to ignite a huge explosion at Kennedy International Airport pleaded guilty to providing material support for the terrorist plan on Tuesday, a day before his case was to go to trial.
The defendant, Abdel Nur, is one of the four men arrested three years ago and charged with conspiring to use explosives to detonate fuel tanks at the airport, which they believed could set off cascading explosions along a fuel pipeline that runs through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens, according to law enforcement authorities.
Mr. Nur, who said his real name was Compton Eversley, was emotional throughout the hearing, his voice catching on his words and his hands reaching up to wipe tears with a handkerchief as he assured Judge Dora L. Irizarry of Federal District Court in Brooklyn that he understood the significant of his plea.“Guilty, your honor,” he said clearly when the time came.
The material support charge, which was not included in the original indictment, carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Had he gone to trial, he faced five counts of conspiring to commit acts of terrorism and a possible sentence of life in prison.
The remaining defendants would be Russell Defreitas, a naturalized Guyanese immigrant and former cargo handler at Kennedy who prosecutors say was the driving force behind the plot, and Abdul Kadir, a former member of Parliament in Guyana, who prosecutors say helped with financing and logistics. A fourth defendant, Kareem Ibrahim, was removed from the case this month because of health problems and will be tried separately.
Court filings by prosecutors portray Mr. Nur as playing a support role in the plot. Mr. Kadir, prosecutors allege, suggested Mr. Nur as an intermediary to introduce Mr. Defreitas to the leaders in the hard-line Islamic group Jamaat al Muslimeen, based in Trinidad, which the two men hoped would lend support to the proposed attack. Though Mr. Defreitas raised questions about Mr. Nur’s character and reputation, the two men traveled to Trinidad and spent several days there. According to a recorded phone call described in the court filings, Mr. Nur told Mr. Kadir that he had presented the airport bombing plan to a leader from the organization.
When he was arrested after turning himself in at a police station in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in June 2007, Mr. Nur angrily told reporters he had been set up. “Its a conspiracy,” he said. He showed up to a court hearing wearing a T-shirt that said “No extradition by entrapment.”
A lawyer for Mr. Nur refused to confirm the plea deal, saying, “I’m just not going to comment.”
However, the plea appeared to be alluded to in a court hearing on Monday during which a lawyer for Mr. Defreitas pushed unsuccessfully for opening arguments in the trial, tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, to be postponed until next week to allow the defense more time to process documents that were only recently released by prosecutors. The lawyer noted, “It’s my understanding that the case is about to be smaller.”
Lawyers for Mr. Defreitas and Mr. Kadir said they expected their clients to go to trial.