How Aussie accountant turned to al-Qaeda 5:01pm June 18, 2013
Australian accountant Sabirhan Hasanoff had a good life before he "threw that all away" and became a jihadist.
For the first time since his 2010 arrest, the Adelaide-raised father-of-three has publicly revealed what turned him from a respected accountant to agreeing to conduct a surveillance operation of the New York Stock Exchange, hand over tens of thousands of dollars to al-Qaeda associates and seek out how he could fight alongside other Muslims in war zones.
Hasanoff, 37, detailed his life story in a six-page letter to US District Judge Kimba Wood, who prosecutors hope sentences Hasanoff to a maximum 20 years' prison in a Manhattan courthouse next week.
Hasanoff's lawyer, Joshua Dratel, who represented Australian David Hicks in Guantanamo Bay, has asked for a 13-year sentence.
"I made a good living and my family and I enjoyed a very comfortable lifestyle," Hasanoff wrote in the letter.
"And then, for reasons that I still have trouble confronting, I threw that all away."
Hasanoff has pleaded guilty to a charge of providing material support, including financial support, equipment, and technical advice, to al-Qaeda associates in Yemen and elsewhere.
He said the turning point came in 2007 when he was trying to connect with his Muslim faith and felt guilty about living a comfortable life and not "standing up for fellow Muslims".
He then began making plans "to go and fight for my faith and my community".
"I was certainly influenced by radical clerics and sermons by people such as the American, Anwar al-Awlaki, but made my own decisions," Hasanoff wrote.
Al-Awlaki was killed in a US drone attack in Yemen in 2011.
Hasanoff was born in Kuldja, China, and is a member of the Islamic ethnic minority in China, the Uighurs.
In 1980 his family took advantage of the United Nations Refugee program and moved to Australia.
Hasanoff said he did supply the Yemen-based al-Qaeda affiliates with "very basic information" about the New York Stock Exchange, but he had no intention of being involved in terrorism.
"There was no way I was ever going to assist or become involved in an act of terrorism - my goal, misguided as it was, was to fight in a war zone and, perhaps, die in the process," Hasanoff wrote.
"I did supply the people with some very basic information about the NYSE but deliberately provided nothing beyond what anyone could have learned from Google Earth, a tourist map or a brochure."
Hasanoff, who is married, has three children aged between nine and three.
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