HOUSTON, Texas – The Iraqi refugee who is accused of providing material support to the Islamic State appeared before a federal judge in Houston on Friday to hear the formal charges against him. He is accused of providing material support to a terrorist organization and of lying about his ties to terrorist groups on his application to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.
He is also accused of lying about having weapons training.
As reported by Breitbart Texas, the suspect, Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, was arrested on Thursday in connection with alleged terrorist activities, including support to the Islamic State, and the Levant (ISIL), an organization that has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization. The arrest was made as part of a joint federal investigation into possible terrorist schemes.
Al Hardan is a Palestinian born in Iraq who entered the United States as a refugee in November 2009. He was granted permanent residence status on or about August 22, 2011 and lives in Houston. He was born on Christmas Day in 1991.
The 24-year-old Al Hardan appeared in court in a rumpled black and gray long-sleeved plaid shirt with khaki pants. He was provided with an interpreter as he appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Millroy, as reported by the Houston Chronicle.
The magistrate read the formal charges against him and appointed him a lawyer to represent him.
The three-count indictment (attached below) charges the Iraqi with: attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State; unlawfully procuring citizenship or naturalization; and making false statements.
The indictment alleges that “Al Hardan attempted to provide material support and resources, including training, expert advice and assistance, and personnel—specifically himself—to a known foreign terrorist organization.” The charge of attempting to provide material support to terrorists carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.
Al Hardan is also accused of knowingly certifying and swearing untruthfully on his formal application when applying to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. He is alleged to have represented that he was not associated with a terrorist organization when, in fact, he associated with members and sympathizers of ISIL throughout 2014. The charge of false citizenship procurement carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison if the offense was committed to facilitate an act of international terrorism.
The indictment further alleges that during an interview in October 2015, Al Hardan falsely represented that he had never received any type of weapons training, when he allegedly received automatic machine gun training. The charge of making false statements carries a maximum sentence of eight years in prison.
During the court hearing, Al Hardan said he earns about $1,800 a month from three different jobs. He maintained he only has $1,700 in the bank which he said was designated to get his parents an apartment. The judge ordered him to pay $700 to his lawyer but said he could leave $1,000 for his wife’s living expenses.
After Al Hardan’s arrest, Texas Governor Greg Abbott was quick to chastise the President and demand once again that he put a halt to the resettlement of refugees in the United States. The Governor has repeatedly condemned the President’s placing Americans in jeopardy until there is an effective vetting process in place.
A second Iraqi was arrested in Sacramento on Thursday, according to the Sacramento Bee. It was reported that the man, Aws Mohamed Younis Al-Jayab, was arrested because he lied to immigration authorities about his relationship to the Islamic State and his travel to Syria. According to the federal criminal complaint filed in California obtained by Breitbart, he emigrated from Syria to the United States.
During a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee, Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) revealed concerns expressed by national security leaders of the Obama Administration about their ability to properly screen refugees, as Breitbart Texas reported. Two cabinet officials told the committee their agencies use exhaustive resources to check biometric data and other background information against U.S. intelligence and law enforcement databases and international data. They said there is simply no way to verify information for a potential terrorist who has not yet shown up on the international intelligence radar screen.
When FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Homeland Security Committee, he admitted that the government has no real way to conduct background checks on refugees. As reported by Breitbart News he said, “We can only query against that which we have collected. And so if someone has never made a ripple in the pond in Syria in a way that would get their identity or their interest reflected in our database, we can query our database until the cows come home, but there will be nothing show up because we have no record of them.”
Prosecutors were reported to have asked the judge to detain Al Hardan pending his trial. They argued that he was a danger to the public and was a flight risk.
The judge ordered a detention hearing for Wednesday where a determination will be made about bail or further detention.
Lana Shadwick is a writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as an associate judge and prosecutor. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2