NEW YORK — A former member of Guyana’s parliament and another man were convicted Monday of plotting to blow up jet fuel tanks at John F. Kennedy International Airport, a terror plot that authorities said was meant to outdo the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and avenge perceived U.S. oppression of Muslims around the world.
A jury in Brooklyn federal court deliberated about five days before finding Russell Defreitas and Abdul Kadir guilty of multiple conspiracy charges. Kadir was acquitted of one charge, surveillance of mass transportation.
Defreitas, a former JFK cargo handler, and Kadir, once a member of Guyana’s parliament, were arrested in 2007 after an informant infiltrated the plot.
Prosecutors alleged that Defreitas, a 66-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen from Guyana, and Kadir, 58, wanted to kill thousands of people and cripple the American economy by using explosives to blow up the fuel tanks and the underground pipelines that run through an adjacent Queens neighbourhood. Authorities say the men sought the help of militant Muslims, including an al-Qaida operative, in Guyana, a country on the Caribbean coast of South America where Asian Indians make up the largest ethnic group.
The defendants wanted to set off an explosion “so massive … that it could be seen from far, far away,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Zainab Ahmad said in closing arguments.
Their vision prompted them to code name the plot “The Shining Light,” the prosecutor said.
Defence lawyers described their clients as clueless trash-talkers who were led astray by the informant, a convicted drug dealer.
“It’s pretty clear that these guys have seen too many Bruce Willis movies and don’t have enough to fill up their time,” Mildred Whalen, the attorney for Defreitas, told jurors.
The government’s case relied heavily on tapes — secretly recorded by the informant — of Defreitas bragging about his knowledge of Kennedy Airport and its vulnerabilities.