One of two New York men charged last year with plotting to blow up synagogues and churches in Manhattan pleaded guilty on Tuesday and faces a decade in prison.
Ahmed Ferhani, 27, admitted to conspiring to attack the biggest synagogue in Manhattan as well as churches to send a message of violence to non-Muslims. Ferhani, who was arrested in May 2011, entered the plea in New York State Supreme Court.
Justice Michael Obus said he intends to sentence Ferhani to 10 years in prison. The judge said that after his sentence, Ferhani, an Algerian immigrant who lived in the borough of Queens, may be deported to Algeria.
Ferhani’s plea is the first conviction in New York under a state terror statute enacted in 2001 after the September 11th attacks and one of only two cases Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has brought since the statute was enacted.
As part of his plea, Ferhani told the judge that he conspired with another man, Mohamed Mamdouh, and the undercover New York police detective to “develop a plan to attack and damage a synagogue in New York County or elsewhere in New York City using explosives.”
“By targeting a synagogue, which I knew to be a Jewish house of worship, in this manner, I intended to create chaos and send a message of intimidation and coercion to the Jewish population of New York City, warning them to stop mistreating Muslims,” Ferhani told the judge.
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During his fourth Thanksgiving presidential address, President Barack Obama referenced the recent, long and bruising campaign season, urged the country to unite behind his administration and, for the fourth year running, neglected to offer verbal thanks to God.
“As a nation, we’ve just emerged from a campaign season that was passionate, noisy, and vital to our democracy,” Obama said. “But it also required us to make choices “ and sometimes those choices led us to focus on what sets us apart instead of what ties us together; on what candidate we support instead of what country we belong to.”
“Thanksgiving,” he continued, “is a chance to put it all in perspective “ to remember that, despite our differences, we are, and always will be, Americans first and foremost.”
“Today we give thanks for blessings that are all too rare in this world,” Obama said. “The ability to spend time with the ones we love; to say what we want; to worship as we please; to know that there are brave men and women defending our freedom around the globe; and to look our children in the eye and tell them that, here in America, no dream is too big if they’re willing to work for it.”
The president’s mention of the freedom “to worship as we please” could be seen as a challenge to conservatives and the Catholic Church, both of which have accused his administration of waging a war on religious freedom.