A lawyer for a 19-year-old American accused of trying to fly halfway around the world to join ISIS said today he doesn’t think the government has the evidence to justify the charges against his client.
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"I don't believe that the evidence is going to show that it was his desire to provide material support to ISIS," attorney Tom Durkin said after a preliminary hearing in Chicago today. "It will show a lot of things, but I don't think it is going to show that he intended to provide material support to terrorists."
Durkin’s client, Mohammed Hamzah Khan from Chicago’s Bolingbrook suburb, was arrested Saturday at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport by the FBI’s Chicago Joint Terrorism Task Force. Investigators allege Khan was attempting to leave the country in order to eventually sneak into Syria and join up with ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
“…[W]hile Khan was at the airport, law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at [Khan’s home],” a complaint by an FBI special agent says. “During the search, agents recovered multiple handwritten documents that appeared to be drafted by Khan and/or other persons, and which expressed support for ISIL [ISIS].”
The documents purportedly included plans for travel to Syria and a letter left for Khan’s parents in which Khan allegedly wrote that there is an obligation to “migrate” to the “Islamic State” now that is has “been established.” Earlier this year ISIS’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, announced his group had set up an Islamic State and declared himself “caliph,” leader of all Muslims.
Khan is charged with “knowingly attempting to provide material support and resources, namely personnel, to a foreign terrorist organization…”
Khan has not entered a plea in his case. Durkin said today he is a very intelligent young man and a very fervent believer in Islam.
Top U.S. security officials have estimated that around 100 Americans have traveled at some point to the Middle East to take part in the conflict in Syria and Iraq, including around a dozen who are currently fighting with terrorist groups there. They have said those who travel to Syria could come back home and present a threat to the homeland.
"In my opinion ISIS is not a threat to the United States and there are a lot of people who share that view," he said. "So if ISIS is not a threat to the United States, I don't know how he [Khan] could be."