Two Muslim men who had discussed terror attacks, support for Islamic State, and a desire to die as martyrs were convicted Tuesday for trying to join the terror group, and for abusing federal financial aid and committing bank fraud to fund their activities.
Nader Elhuzayel and Muhanad Badawi were convicted of attempting to provide material support to Islamic State after a two-week trial. The United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) Central District of California stated that Badawi was also found guilty of aiding and abetting the attempt.
Badawi was also convicted of “using his federal financial aid to purchase a plane ticket for Elhuzayel to travel to Turkey,” according to the USAO. Elhuzayel was convicted for defrauding three banks with stolen checks to help finance his trip to Syria to join the group, also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), or “Daesh.”
A recorded conversation of the two caught them discussing “how it would be a blessing to fight for the cause of Allah, and to die in the battlefield,” while referring to ISIS as “we.” Badawi also discussed support for the Islamic terror group, and violence against non-Muslims, on Facebook. Elhuzayel used the ISIS flag as his Facebook profile photo, according to the USAO.
Courtroom documents reveal: “On October 21, 2014, defendant Badawi made a video of defendant Elhuzayel in which defendant Elhuzayel swore allegiance to the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and pledged to travel to Syria to be an ISIS fighter.”
Elhuzayel was arrested as he attempted to board a flight at Los Angeles International Airport that would have taken him to Turkey for the purpose of joining ISIS. Badawi purchased the one-way Turkish Airlines ticket for Elhuzayel. The flight was scheduled for final arrival in Israel, with a layover in Istanbul, but Elhuzayel never planned on boarding that second flight.
Elhuzayel’s father, Salem Elhuzayel, spoke with KTLA in May 2015 and called his son “just an innocent human being” who was trying to “go home” to visit Palestinian relatives.
Elhuzayel and Badawi shared a residence prior to their arrests in 2015.
Badawi was quoted in court documents as telling yet another person of Elhuzayel’s plan to travel to Turkey and join ISIS: “I’m gonna join soon. I don’t know how soon, but I will go.”
“At trial, the jury heard evidence that Mr. Badawi also encouraged other associates to support ISIL and participate in violent jihad. This is a reminder that our work is not done and the public must remain steadfast and report suspicious behavior, whether that behavior is carried out in person or online,” said Deirdre Fike, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
“These two defendants betrayed their country and sought to join ISIL, a terrorist organization dedicated to brutally murdering innocent people,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker.
Elhuzayel’s sentencing hearing was scheduled for September 19 and Badawi’s for September 26. Elhuzayel faces a maximum 30 years in federal prison for each count of bank fraud as well as a maximum 15 years for each count of support for ISIS. Badawi also faces a possible 15 years for each count of attempting to support ISIS, as well as a maximum five years for the financial aid fraud.
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