While US authorities clearly did not manage to prevent the recent terror attack in Orlando, they have succeeded in arresting other potential terrorists.
Two Southern California men were convicted Tuesday of trying to join the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group in Syria.
Nader Elhuzayel and Muhanad Badawi were each convicted of conspiracy to aid a foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison.
The 25-year-old Anaheim men concocted a scheme last year for Elhuzayel to fly to the Middle East to fight for ISIS, federal officials said.
Badawi, a college engineering student, also was convicted of aiding and abetting an attempt to provide support for terrorists and financial aid fraud. Authorities say he used a federal college grant to support the terror group.
In April 2015, he let Elhuzayel use his debit card to buy a one-way plane ticket to Israel with a six-hour layover in Turkey, according to an FBI court affidavit.
Elhuzayel also was convicted of 26 counts of bank fraud. Federal officials said he deposited stolen checks in his bank accounts and withdrew money at Orange County banks. Federal officials said he intended to use the cash to go to Syria to fight.
He is facing up to 30 years in federal prison on each bank fraud count.
‘Betrayed Their Country’
The FBI affidavit said the men shared their support for ISIS in conversation and on social media, sharing photos of “unbelievers” being beheaded and expressing wishes to die as “martyrs.”
Elhuzayel had sworn allegiance to the leader of ISIS on a video and he used the Islamic State flag as the profile picture on a Facebook page, authorities said.
“These two defendants betrayed their country and sought to join … a terrorist organization dedicated to brutally murdering innocent people,” US Attorney Eileen M. Decker said in a statement.
Badawi’s attorney, Kate Corrigan, had argued that he never actually intended to fight for the Islamic State but “was a lot of talk and absolutely no action.”
Attorneys for both men also contended that their comments were offensive but not criminal.
Elhuzayel had a First Amendment right to the comments he made on social media “even if it makes you cringe,” his attorney, Pal Lengyel-Leahu, had argued.
Both men had been jailed since their arrest last year. While in custody, Badawi stopped eating and dropped from 140 to 109 pounds before a judge ordered him force-fed last December.
Israel has also been contending with attempts by Arabs from Israel to join ISIS. Dozens of Arabs have been arrested by Israeli officials on their way to ISIS or on their return from the killing fields in Syria.
Speaking earlier this month, FBI Director James Comey said that ISIS is currently the main threat facing the United States, both in its efforts to recruit fighters to join it in Syria and Iraq and to have others carry out violent attacks on American soil.
He said the FBI is continuing to focus on ISIS, and there are close to 1,000 open cases nationwide involving people at various stages of recruitment.
By: AP and United with Israel Staff
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