CENTENNIAL — A Saudi linguist convicted of sexually assaulting a housekeeper and keeping her a virtual slave for four years won a partial reduction of his prison sentence from a Colorado judge Friday.
Homaidan al-Turki was sentenced to between eight years and life in prison. District Judge J. Mark Hannen in Centennial cited al-Turki's good behavior in prison in reducing the original sentence of 28 years to life.
Al-Turki insists he is innocent and a victim of anti-Muslim sentiment. His case has angered Saudi authorities — several of whom attended Friday's hearing — and prompted the U.S. State Department to send Colorado Attorney General John Suthers to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Abdullah, Crown Prince Sultan and al-Turki's family after al-Turki's 2006 conviction.
More than 100 supporters of al-Turki crowded the courthouse Friday.
Prosecutors opposed any sentence reduction. Appellate courts have upheld al-Turki's conviction, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case last year.
Al-Turki brought his wife, five children and an Indonesian housekeeper to Colorado in 1995, and he studied at the University of Colorado. He was a well-known member of Denver's Muslim community, contributing financially to the Colorado Muslim Society and an Islamic elementary school in Aurora, said Sheikh Abu-Omar Almubarac, a society co-founder.
According to court documents, al-Turki first came under investigation when authorities examined whether his operation of a business violated terms of his student visa. Al-Turki owned Al-Basheer Publications & Translations, which distributed Islamic works in English.
After interviewing the housekeeper, prosecutors brought the assault and slavery charges against al-Turki.
At trial, al-Turki testified that FBI agents persuaded the housekeeper to accuse him of imprisoning and sexually assaulting her after they failed to build a case that he was a terrorist. The woman initially denied any sexual abuse and made the allegations after being detained by immigration officials.
Al-Turki's attorneys claim that federal officials had been investigating him for alleged terrorist ties since 1995. No terrorism charges were filed.
A state jury convicted him of unlawful sexual contact by use of force, theft and extortion — all felonies — as well as misdemeanor counts of false imprisonment and conspiracy to commit false imprisonment. Similar federal charges were dropped.
Al-Turki's company holds the copyright to "The Lives of the Prophets," a CD set of sermons recorded by the U.S.-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
Thought to be hiding in Yemen, al-Awlaki is believed to have inspired and even plotted recent attempted attacks on the U.S., including the failed December 2009 bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner and the unsuccessful plot to send mail bombs on planes from Yemen to the U.S. Al-Awlaki also is believed to have inspired the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, and had ties to some of the 9/11 hijackers.
Federal law enforcement authorities in Denver have declined to say whether it was al-Turki's relationship with al-Awlaki that brought al-Turki under scrutiny.
Al-Turki has filed a federal lawsuit claiming guards at the Limon Correctional Facility denied him medical attention as he passed a kidney stone. That suit is pending.