updated 4/22/2005 12:13:50 PM ET 2005-04-22T16:13:50

A British judge Friday imposed a 13-year prison sentence on a man who admitted to conspiring with shoe-bomber Richard Reid to blow up a U.S.-bound trans-Atlantic jet in 2001.

Prosecutors said they believe Saajid Badat may have backed out of an alleged plot with Reid, who was subdued by passengers when he attempted to detonate a bomb aboard an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami on Dec. 22, 2001.

“Turning away from crime in circumstances such as these constitutes a powerful mitigating factor,” Judge Adrian Fulford said. “It can take considerable courage to plead guilty to offenses of this kind.”

Badat’s guilty plea in February was the first major conviction for a terrorist plot in Britain since the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

British convicts typically are eligible for parole after serving two-thirds of their sentence, so Badat could be released in a little more than eight years.

Fulford said Badat had been part of a plot to commit a “wicked and inhuman crime” that would have killed hundreds of people.

“Sitting in the civilized and muted surroundings of the Old Bailey (courthouse), it is easy to forget exactly what you planned,” Fulford said.

But the judge said he believed the would-be terrorist had a genuine change of heart and balanced the need for strong deterrents in terrorism cases with Badat’s evident remorse.

Fulford said he hoped the sentence would send a message to others considering terrorism that a decision to turn away from violence would benefit them in court.

Had Badat been convicted at trial without pleading guilty, the judge said he would have recommended a sentence of at least 50 years.

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