An Eritrean man who joined Somali guerrillas was sentenced Wednesday in New York City to more than nine years in prison for assisting a U.S.-designated terrorist group, federal authorities said.
Mohamed Ibrahim Ahmed, 38, had been living in Sweden when he traveled to Somalia to join al-Shabaab militants in their war against the Somali government, according to court records.
The State Department has formally designated al-Shabaab as a foreign terrorist organization.
Ahmed was arrested in 2009 in Nigeria and sent to the U.S., where he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and one count of conspiracy to receive military-type training from a foreign terrorist organization.
Court records show that Ahmed's unexpected guilty plea came shortly before U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel was about to rule on his motion to suppress information he gave FBI officials while he was in custody in Nigeria.
That motion had been seen as an important test of the Obama administration's contention that investigators can question terrorism suspects without reading them their Miranda rights against self-incrimination.
The FBI revealed in case records unsealed this month that it interviewed Ahmed twice in Nigeria — once without advising him of his rights and again after having done so.
In a reply to Ahmed's motion to suppress, the government argued that it could legally question terrorism suspects without advising them of their rights and without compromising a criminal investigation if doing so was "relevant to the national security of the United States."
The second interrogation was conduced by different agents at a different location and was therefore "clean," it argued — a contention that civil liberties advocates have questioned.
The judge's ruling on Ahmed's motion was never released.