Washington state

Taliban collaborator guilty of breaking his probation

SEATTLE - A Muslim convert convicted of helping the Taliban was found guilty Thursday of violating his probation and was sent back to prison.

James Ujaama, 41, appeared in U.S. District Court where prosecutors said he had violated terms of his probation by fleeing to Belize in December with a fake Mexican passport.

He was found guilty of making false statements to a federal officer, failing to follow instructions of a probation officer, possessing a Mexican passport with a false name and leaving the United States without permission of the court.

Judge Barbara Rothstein sentenced Ujaama to two years in federal prison, the maximum penalty allowed.

"I am sorry that we're all here today under these circumstances. You did violate the court's trust in you," Rothstein told Ujaama.

Ujaama's attorney, Peter Offenbecher, apologized to the court on behalf of his client, saying Ujaama took full responsibility for his actions.

"Mr. Ujaama would like the court to know he deeply regrets his conduct over the past few months," Offenbecher said. "He knows that he alone is the person that made those bad choices."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Bruce would not comment after Thursday's brief hearing on whether the government will back out of its plea agreement with Ujaama.

Previously, federal officials had said that if Ujaama is found guilty of parole violations, the government could back out of its plea agreement and file new charges that he offered support to terrorists.

Ujaama, born James Earnest Thompson, was charged in 2002 with trying to set up a terrorist training camp for Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri.

In 2003, he pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide cash, computers and fighters to the Taliban. In exchange, Ujaama served a two-year sentence and agreed to cooperate with terrorism investigations until 2013.

As part of the plea agreement, he also was to surrender his passport and was not allowed to travel internationally during his three-year probation without written permission from the U.S. attorney's office in Seattle.

He was arrested in mid-December outside a Belize mosque, carrying a Mexican passport with the name "Jose Ramirez."

After the hearing, Offenbecher would not say why his client left the country.

"Sometimes good people make bad decisions," he said.