LONDON — A man described as "a determined and dedicated terrorist" who headed a British sleeper cell plotting to destroy major financial institutions in the U.S. was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison.
Dhiren Barot, who was also accused of plotting to set off a dirty bomb and gas-canister explosions in London parking garages, cannot be released for at least 40 years under the sentence handed down after he pleaded guilty to one count of murder conspiracy.
"You are, Mr. Barot, a determined and dedicated terrorist, a highly intelligent and extremely dangerous man," Justice Alexander Butterfield said.
"Your intention was not simply to cause damage, panic or fear," Butterfield said. "Your intention was to murder -- but it went further. It was designed to strike at the very heart of democracy and the security of the state."
Barot, 34, an Indian-born immigrant who grew up in Britain and converted from Hinduism to Islam as a young man, showed no emotion as the ruling was issued.
The sentence theoretically allows him to be transferred to the U.S. for trial on an indictment accusing him of plotting to blow up the New York Stock Exchange, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund headquarters, the Citigroup building in New York and the Prudential building in Newark, N.J.
British Home Office officials said they could not comment on the status of any extradition request.
Seven men accused of being Barot's co-conspirators face trial in Britain in April in a plot the judge said was intended to cause "indiscriminate carnage, bloodshed and butchery" across the U.S. and Britain.
Barot's attorney said there was no evidence that his client and the other defendants had gone any further than the exploration stage, or that Barot had acquired any materials for carrying out bombings or arson.
"There is no evidence as to when an attack was due to be carried out," said the attorney, Ian MacDonald.
But prosecutors, calling Barot "a close associate or member of Al Qaeda," presented evidence that he had prepared in exhaustive detail the logistics for a wide range of attacks likely to result in massive deaths. He probably sought approval and funding for his plans from Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, they said.
Peter Clarke, head of counter-terrorism for the Metropolitan Police Service, said Barot's knowledge and careful use of sophisticated anti-surveillance techniques and coded messages, along with his trips to terrorist training camps in Asia, made it clear he was a "a determined and experienced terrorist" whose work was stopped only by his arrest in August 2004.
"For well over two years we have been unable to show the British public the reality of the threat they faced from this man," Clarke said. "Now they can see for themselves the full horror of his plans."