‘I am fed up with this evil’: How an American went from Ivy League student to disillusioned ISIS fighter

Washington Post:

In late October 2014, the FBI received an unusual email from a young man named Mohimanul Alam Bhuiya.

Bhuiya, then 25, had joined the Islamic State. Now the longtime Brooklyn resident was desperate and looking for a way out. He wanted the FBI to rescue him.

“I am an American who’s trying to get back home from Syria,” he wrote in his email, according to federal court documents unsealed last month. “I just want to get back home. All I want is this extraction, complete exoneration thereafter, and have everything back to normal with me and my family.”

He added: “I am fed up with this evil.”

The FBI was still verifying his identity when Bhuiya managed to escape about a week later. He returned to the United States, where he was promptly arrested and charged with providing material support and receiving military training from the Islamic State.

In a closed courtroom in Brooklyn, he pleaded guilty to both counts on Nov. 26, 2014, according to the court filings. He faces up to 25 years in prison.

Bhuiya’s name is redacted in the documents, but several U.S. law enforcement officials confirmed his identity. His lawyer did not return a message, and efforts to reach his family were unsuccessful.

Prosecutors told the judge that redacting his name was “necessary to protect the integrity of the ongoing government investigations and the safety of the defendant and his family.” But NBC News in May ran an interview with Bhuiya, with cooperation from the Justice Department, in which he appeared under the name “Mo” with his face completely unobscured.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn declined to comment.

Bhuiya was not your average wayward Islamic State recruit. Unlike many of the people the Justice Department has charged in connection with the terrorist group, Bhuiya appeared to have a bright future. He attended Columbia University before he fell under the sway of the Islamic State.

“A young man from an Ivy League school challenges the conventional wisdom of a typical American ISIS recruit,” said Seamus Hughes, the deputy director at the program on extremism at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber & Homeland Security and a former National Counterterrorism Center staffer.

Bhuiya went to high school in Brooklyn. He seemed to be a well-adjusted student who took a serious interest in Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, according to a 2008 essay he wrote for the school newspaper entitled “Sample College Essay: My Superhero.”

He praised President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, who “fought a worldwide battle against the evil supervillain Adolf Hitler.”

In the essay, he said he wanted to major in psychology. He concluded: “I believe that I have greatness in me,” he wrote. “I want to be a superhero.”

According to a Columbia University spokesman, Bhuiya attended the School of General Studies. He was enrolled for one semester from January to May 2013 and did not earn a degree.

Bhuiya had come to the attention of the FBI before he traveled to Syria. According to court documents, investigators with the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York learned in June 2014 that the young man might be planning to travel to Syria.

When authorities interviewed Bhuiya at his home in Brooklyn, he told investigators that he was interested in events in Syria and supported “rebel groups.” But he claimed he lacked the money to travel to Syria and “did not know what he would do if he got there.”

Days later, he flew to Istanbul and then managed to enter Syria. He had little interest in fighting.

He implored Islamic State commanders not to “send me off to the front lines because I can be useful in other ways,” according to the NBC interview. “It seemed to me that it would, you know, save my skin.”

Bhuiya said he quickly became disillusioned and described the Islamic State as “dystopia.”

“You could see madness in their eyes,” he recalled. Bhuiya decided to flee. In the email to the FBI, he said he did not have a passport because the Islamic State had taken it. He asked if someone could pick him up at the border.

“Please help me get home,” he told the FBI.

According to court documents, Bhuiya managed to escape across the border into Turkey and make his way to a U.S. State Department outpost in Adana, which is in the southern part of the country.

He admitted that he had joined and worked for the Islamic State. He said he carried a weapon but had never been involved in fighting.

It is not clear where Bhuiya is being held as he awaits sentencing.

Court documents indicate that prosecutors, at Bhuiya’s request, had been exploring the possibility of going public with his story.

 

Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/i-am-fed-up-with-this-evil-how-an-american-went-from-ivy-league-student-to-disillusioned-isis-fighter/2016/06/29/155e777e-3e07-11e6-80bc-d06711fd2125_story.html

Ex-al-Qaida spokesman recalls 9/11 with bin Laden

March 19, 2014

 

NEW YORK — Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law offered a rare glimpse of the al-Qaida leader in the hours after the Sept. 11 attacks, recounting during surprise testimony Wednesday in a Manhattan courtroom how the two met that night in a cave in Afghanistan.

“Did you learn about what happened … the attacks on the United States?” the son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, recalled bin Laden asking him.

The testimony came as Abu Ghaith’s trial on charges he conspired to kill Americans and aid al-Qaida as a spokesman for the terrorist group took a dramatic turn. His decision to take the witness stand was announced by his lawyer, Stanley Cohen, who surprised a nearly empty courtroom that quickly filled with spectators as word spread.

Abu Ghaith testified that bin Laden seemed worried that night and asked what he thought would happen next. Abu Ghaith said he predicted America “will not settle until it accomplishes two things: to kill you and topple the state of the Taliban.”

Bin Laden responded: “’You’re being too pessimistic,’” Abu Ghaith recalled.

Abu Ghaith said he wasn’t involved in recruiting aspiring terrorists and denied allegations that he had prior knowledge of the failed shoe-bomb airline attack by Richard Reid in December 2001.

His lawyers said they were hopeful that another part of Abu Ghaith’s testimony, that he had met self-professed Sept. 11 architect Khalid Sheik Mohammed, would cause the federal judge overseeing the trial to reconsider his decision to exclude Mohammed from testifying via videotape from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Washington Post.com: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/ex-al-qaida-spokesman-to-testify-at-new-york-trial/2014/03/19/2b2b3a5a-af71-11e3-b8b3-44b1d1cd4c1f_story.html

Judge Denies Ex-Defense Team’s Bid to Limit Role in Fort Hood Suspect’s Trial

KILLEEN, Tex. — The judge overseeing the military trial of the Army psychiatrist charged in a deadly shooting rampage at the Fort Hood base denied on Thursday his former lawyers’ request to limit their role in the case. The ruling came a day after the lawyers said they could no longer assist him because he was seeking the same goal as prosecutors — to be sentenced to death.

 

The psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, released his court-appointed Army defense lawyers so he could represent himself, a rare if not unprecedented move in a military capital-punishment case. His three former lawyers remain by his side in the courtroom as standby counsel.

 

After Major Hasan gave an opening statement on Tuesday and admitted being the gunman, his former lead Army lawyer asked the judge to cut back the lawyers’ involvement, saying that helping him achieve his goal of getting the death sentence violates their ethics as defense lawyers. They were not seeking to withdraw from the case, but to have their roles modified.

On Thursday, the judge said the dispute amounted to a disagreement over strategy between Major Hasan and his standby counsel. She said that he was competent to represent himself, and that the Constitution gives him the right to do so. The judge, Col. Tara A. Osborn, ordered the lawyers to continue to assist him.

 

Military law experts said the appeal — to be filed with the Army Court of Criminal Appeals — would not have a major impact on the trial. But the colonel has filed appeals in the case that have been upheld by military appellate courts, altering the trial’s course.

Boston Marathon bombing survivors, families get no satisfaction from suspect’s arraignment

BOSTON — Survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings got little satisfaction from surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s first public appearance since the deadly attacks. “Not guilty,” was all he said, over and over.

The blase-looking 19-year-old, his arm in a cast and his face swollen, entered his pleas Wednesday during a seven-minute arraignment in federal court.

Bombing victims showed little reaction in the courtroom after a federal marshal warned them against any outbursts, but some made their views known afterward — as did a group of chanting Tsarnaev supporters.

“I thought that maybe he would come with a different attitude or maybe look a little different, maybe look like he cared a little bit. But he didn’t show me that,” said Peter Brown, whose two nephews each lost their right legs in the explosions.

Tsarnaev gave a small, lopsided smile to his two sisters upon arriving in the courtroom. He appeared to have a jaw injury and there was swelling around his left eye and cheek.

Leaning into the microphone, he told a federal judge, “Not guilty,” in his Russian accent. Then he was led away in handcuffs, making a kissing gesture toward his sisters with his lips. One sobbed loudly, resting her head on a woman seated next to her.

The proceedings took place in a heavily guarded courtroom packed not only with victims and their families but with police officers, the public and the media.

Authorities say Tsarnaev orchestrated the bombing along with his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died following a gunbattle with police several days after the attack. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arrested on April 19, hiding in a bloodstained boat in a suburban backyard after a manhunt that paralyzed much of the Boston area.

Live video testimony from Pakistan planned for defense witnesses in Fla. terror support trial

MIAMI — Witnesses will testify live from Pakistan via video beamed to a federal courtroom as part of the defense case in the trial of a Muslim cleric accused of financially supporting the Pakistani Taliban.

 

U.S. District Judge Robert Scola approved the unusual testimony in the case of 77-year-old imam Hafiz Khan. The first five witnesses will be questioned beginning Feb. 11 at an Islamabad hotel, and jurors will watch on courtroom TV screens. Scola said Tuesday the arrangement is costing taxpayers about $130,000.

 

Khan is on trial for allegedly funneling at least $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban, listed by the U.S. as a terrorist group linked to al-Qaida. Khan insists the money was for innocent purposes, and the Pakistani witnesses are expected to back that up. If convicted, Khan faces up to 15 years in prison on each of four counts.

 

Four of the witnesses that will begin testifying on Feb. 11 are alleged by prosecutors to be Taliban members or sympathizers, including Khan’s daughter Amina Khan. She and two of the others are charged in the same U.S. case as their father, but Pakistan has refused to arrest them, federal prosecutors say.

 

“We have no information that’s going to happen,” Sullivan said.

 

Earlier, prosecutors dropped charges against one of Khan’s sons, and Scola earlier this month dismissed the case against a second son because of insufficient evidence. Trial of the elder Khan is expected to last through most of February.

 

Accused 9/11 plotters to appear in Guantanamo Bay court

Early Saturday morning in a courtroom inside the highly guarded detainee prison at the U.S. Naval Base at  Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, five of the alleged top plotters in the Sept. 11 attacks will speak for the first time under a new Obama administration plan to hold them accountable under military tribunals for the worst terrorist strikes in America.

It will be a test for the prisoners, including alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, of whether to plead guilty or not guilty at the arraignment hearing — and whether to use the occasion as a platform to denounce the United States and call for more terrorist attacks around the world.

But in a larger sense the hearing, which kicks off the long-awaited military trial of the so-called Gitmo 5, will be a test of Obama himself, who in 2008 pledged to close the island prison and to try the five defendants in a civilian courtroom setting. He was unsuccessful on both counts. Now, what unfolds in Cuba over the next several months could weigh heavily on the upcoming presidential campaign.

Interpreting Shariah Law Across The Centuries

Sadakat Kadri is an English barrister, a Muslim by birth and a historian. His first book, The Trial, was an extensive survey of the Western criminal judicial system, detailing more than 4,000 years of courtroom antics.

In his new book, Heaven on Earth, Kadri turns his sights east, to centuries of Shariah law. The first parts of his book describe how early Islamic scholars codified — and then modified — the code that would govern how people lead their daily lives. Kadri then turns to the modern day, reflecting on the lawmakers who are trying to prohibit Shariah law in a dozen states, as well as his encounters with scholars and imams in India, Pakistan, Syria, Egypt, Turkey and Iran — the very people who strictly interpret the religious and moral code of Islam today. And some of those modern interpretations, he says, are much more rigid — and much more draconian — than the code set forth during the early years of Islamic law.

Islamic law is shaped by hadiths, or reports about what Prophet Muhammad said and did. The hadiths, says Kadri, govern how Muslims should pray, treat criminals and create medications, among other things.

“Jyllands-Posten – where is that?”

13 April, 2012

GLOSTRUP. In his black Adidas jacket and short haircut Sahbi Zalouti looks more like a member of an MC-clib than an Islamic terrorist. He does not deny that he and the others sat in his home and discussed terror plans against “that newspaper with Muhammad-drawings.”

 

Leaned over the microphone he says: ”It was just talk. Nothing would have happened in reality.”

 

Zalouti was the only one out of the four suspects who was cross-examined in the court’s first day in Glostrup outside Copenhagen. He argued for his innocence as being the one who was dragged into something he knew nothing about. He was just an interlocutor. Not a participant.

“For me there was no talk of doing anything in reality. The whole thing was just idealistic talk. When I heard that my friends have been arrested with weapons I froze like a statue. I am a Muslim. Yes, I am religious. Yes. Am I a terrorist? No. I would never go a shoot people.”

Zalouti smiles interchangeably and comments angrily at the interrogator. At moments he strokes apologetically over the interpreters back with his left hand. It is difficult to discern if this is a spontaneous gesture or if this is something he does to appear as soft-minded and friendly.

The weapon was found in a rented car.

He admits without any hesistation that he had a weapon in his apartment in Frihetsvägen i Järfälla [Stockholm]. He points to another defendant Mounir Dhahri as the one who tookmthe weapon to his apartment. “I said I did not want weapons at my place.” Dhahri sits about ten meters away and gazes over on his former friend. His jaws are clenched.

The prosecutor displays an automatic rifle with a silencer for the court and the journalists in the courtroom. I do not want to claim that there was a breeze blowing though the room, but it was striking. Zalouti acknowledges that this is the same gun that he had in his apartment. “Dhahiri said that the weapon was not functional.”

The prosecutor claims that with this weapon and a handgun that the three defendents planed to storm the Jyllands-Posten’s editorial in central Copenhagen and kill as many people as possible. This would have been a revenge for caricatures which were published in 2005.

The weapon was found in a rented car which was used by the men who drove it to Copenhagen on the night of December 29, 2010. What they did not know is that the police had recorded every meter of their trip from Stockholm. The prosecutor shows survailance images of the car passing the Öresund Bridge at 02.02h. An hour later they had arrived to an apartment at Mörkhöjvej 92 in the Copenhagen suburb Herslev.

They were observed by the police even here. The prosecutor displays another surveillance video from the apartment there the men prepared to go to bed. While they sleep, the police search their car and finds, besides the weapons, ammunition and two plastic bags filled with cable ties. The bags have the fingerprints from the defendants. Cable ties can be used to tie people up.

The prosecutor displays a bag of cable ties in the courtroom. On the court’s big screen we can see a receipt from a Bauhaus store in Järfälla and a surveillance image of what appears to be one of the defendants buying cable ties couple of hours before departing to Copenhagen.

The score of evidences is demonstrated after searches made in the apartment in Herslev. In a jacket they found 20 000 dollars. In another jacket, a map and ammunition rounds. 36 rounds in total. The evidences supporting the charge that the men planned to carry out an attack is convincing. The proceedings take place in room 404 on the top floor of the Glostrup district court. Outside there is a helicopter hovering the building. Many policemen gurd the front and back entrances. There is a metal detector at the door of the courtroom. I’m thoroughly searched before entering the room. This is far more thorough search than at the airport.

The prosecutor plays a sound file from an mp3player which was seized during the arrests. An Arabic speaking voice proclaims something with songs in the background. On the screen in front the translation rolls: “The have declared war and enmity against us. What are we waiting for?” The voice intones. ”With the sword do we follow the enemies and strike them down.”

Wolfgang Hansson (A US- and Foreign Correspondent for Aftonbladet)

The use of the Islamic veil in the court rooms to be analyzed by the Constitutional Court

On October 29, 2009, a lawyer Zoubida Edidi Barik, of Moroccan origin with Spanish nationality, took a seat on the bench of the courtroom of the Court, next to defense counsel. As required, she wore the toga. But she was also carrying the Islamic headscarf (hijab), which did not hide her face. Early in the session of the trial, Javier Gomez Bermudez, President of the Court ordered Barik to leave the bar and, if she would like to follow the appointment she would have to go sit in the audience. The decision was appealed belonging now the last word to the Constitutional Court

Mass. man convicted in plot to help al-Qaida sentenced to 17 1/2 years

BOSTON — A Massachusetts man convicted of conspiring to help al-Qaida was sentenced Thursday to 17½ years in prison after giving an impassioned speech in which he declared his love for Islam and said, “This is not terrorism; it’s self-defense.”

Tarek Mehanna, 29, an American who grew up in the wealthy Boston suburb of Sudbury, was found guilty in December of traveling to Yemen to seek training in a terrorist camp with the intention of going on to Iraq to fight U.S. soldiers there. Prosecutors said that when that plan failed, Mehanna returned to the United States and began translating and disseminating materials online promoting violent jihad.

Mehanna was sentenced on four terror-related charges and three counts of lying to authorities. His family and supporters gave him a standing ovation and called out “we love you” as he was led from the courtroom.

During the sentencing hearing, Mehanna gave a sweep of history and compared the suffering experienced by Muslims at the hands of Americans to the oppression inflicted on American colonists by the British. He mentioned Paul Revere, Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela, among others, and said he came to appreciate the plight of the oppressed against their oppressors as a 6-year-old boy reading comic books.