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Iraqi man who sought asylum in U.S. sentenced for attacks

An Iraqi man who sought political asylum in the United States has been sentenced to up to 30 years in prison for attempting to rape several men.

The sentence was imposed on Qassim Ali Al-Raheemi, 46, despite his attorney's argument that a prison term could result in deportation and execution in Iraq.Al-Raheemi was accused of attacking three men in August 1997 - one outside a Salt Lake City bar and two others inside his apartment. He cut one victim with a knife.

He was charged in 3rd District Court with aggravated kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault, first-degree felonies; and attempted forcible sodomy and forcible sexual abuse, second-degree felonies.

In a plea-bargain agreement, he pleaded guilty to three second-degree felony counts in connection with two of the cases. Each count is punishable by up to 15 years.

Al-Raheemi admitted guilt when he entered the pleas in December, but changed his story during a presentence interview.

"There are women available all the time, if you pay," Al-Raheemi reportedly told an interviewer. "Why would I choose a man?"

Defense attorney Michael Peterson argued for probation, saying the defendant needed treatment for alcohol abuse, anger management and sex-offender counseling.

Peterson also expressed concern that a prison term would result in Al-Raheemi's deportation to Iraq, where he probably would be executed. Al-Raheemi was imprisoned for seven years in Iraq for protesting a bombing, before escaping and making his way to America, Peterson said.