A Nigerian, Lawal Babafemi, 35, also known as Ayatollah Mustapha, accused of receiving weapons training from al Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate, among other contributions, for the group’s English-language media operations, has been sentenced to 22 years in U.S. prison.
Babafemi was sentenced Wednesday by U.S. District Judge John Gleeson in Brooklyn after pleading guilty in April 2014 to providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Babafemi told Judge Gleeson that he was “extremely sorry” and that he now denounced Al Qaeda. His lawyer, Lisa Hoyes, noted that he had been advising another of her clients – who is in jail on charges of trying to join ISIS — to avoid terrorism, New York Times reports.
“It’s hard to conjure a more serious offense,” Judge Gleeson said in handing down the sentence. He noted, however, that Mr. Babafemi’s recent denunciations of terrorism factored slightly in his favor. “I wish I had a better feel for how genuine it is,” the judge added.
Prosecutors had sought up to 30 years in prison for Babafemi, who was extradited from Nigeria in 2013 after being arrested several times two years earlier on local terrorism charges. Babafemi’s court-appointed lawyer in Brooklyn was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday afternoon. Prosecutors said that from January 2010 to August 2011, Babafemi travelled from Nigeria to Yemen twice to meet with leaders of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, known as AQAP.
During his time with that group, Babafemi, who went by the name “Ayatollah Mustapha,” worked on AQAP’s media operations, including its magazine “Inspire,” prosecutors said. He and two other individuals including a Vietnamese man named Minh Quang Pham contributed writing and editing, prosecutors said, and Babafemi became close with Samir Khan, a U.S. citizen who was Inspire’s editor.