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Attorney argues Ind. man’s spy sentence too severe

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – A lawyer for a former Indiana truck driver convicted of trying to sell U.S. secrets to Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi government said Monday that the 13-year sentence the man received is too harsh and he shouldn’t be serving it in a federal Supermax prison.

Federal prosecutors said Shaaban Shaaban traveled to Baghdad in late 2002 to sell Hussein’s government the names of CIA operatives in Iraq for $3 million and to coordinate human shields once the U.S. invaded but was unable to seal the deal. When federal agents searched Shaaban’s house in Greenfield, 20 miles east of Indianapolis, they found no evidence that he possessed such information, court documents said.

“He really had nothing to sell,” Shaaban’s attorney, Bernard Kleinman, of White Plains, N.Y., told The Associated Press. “He was convicted of trying to fool the Iraqi government.”

Shaaban, who was born in Jordan, was indicted in 2005 on charges he had acted as a foreign agent. The following year, he was convicted, sentenced to prison and stripped of his citizenship.

Shaaban was initially housed in the federal prison at Terre Haute but was later moved to the Supermax prison in Colorado. The “super maximum security” prison houses some of the nation’s most notorious criminals, including Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols and “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski.

“I don’t think he’s ever been a threat whatsoever to the public,” Kleinman told the AP. “I don’t think he’s any threat to national security.”

In court documents filed Thursday, Kleinman argues that Shaaban’s sentence was “grossly disproportionate” to the crime and amounted to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.

“The sentence imposed was disparate to similar facts applied on a nationwide basis,” Kleinman wrote.

But the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement Monday that it stood by the sentence.

“We … feel the sentence was appropriate,” said Tim Horty, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Indianapolis.

Court documents filed on Shaaban’s behalf last week also repeated the argument that he was never allowed to bring witnesses from Russia who he maintained could corroborate his claim that the crimes of which he was convicted were actually committed by a long-lost twin brother who later was killed in a bombing in Chechnya.


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