CHICAGO – A 19-year-old man from suburban Chicago pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to federal charges of trying to provide material support to Islamic State militants after he tried to travel with his two younger siblings to the Middle East to join the Islamic State.
Mohammed Hamzah Khan of Bolingbrook, Illinois, was arrested in October at O’Hare International Airport as he tried to board a plane to Vienna en route to Istanbul with his then 17-year-old sister and 16-year-old brother.
After the hearing Khan’s mother, Zarine Khan, said her son was recruited over social media. She condemned the radical movement that she said lured her children to save their money to obtain passports in secret and buy tickets to travel halfway around the world.
“We condemn the brainwashing and recruiting of children through the use of social media and Internet. We have a message for ISIS, Mr. Baghdadi (leader of Islamic State), and his fellow social media recruiters: Leave our children alone,” she said.
She also condemned the radical Islamist attacks that left 17 people dead in Paris last week.
Her son’s defense attorney, Tom Durkin, said the attacks in Paris would make it difficult to find impartial jurors.
Islamic State has seized large areas of Syria and Iraq and declared that it has established a caliphate — a form of religious government. The United States led airstrikes against the group last year after it kidnapped and beheaded aid workers, tourists and journalists.
Durkin said his client believed Islamic State propaganda about the utopian nature of the caliphate.
“We don’t believe the evidence will be sufficient to show that he was providing material support to a terrorist organization. We believe he wanted to live in a caliphate, as misguided as that may be,” Durkin said after the hearing.
Khan was indicted last week by a federal grand jury for trying to provide material support to the organization.
Federal prosecutors say Khan left letters and notebooks showing he was committed to jihad and that he intended to fight with Islamic State.
If convicted of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, Khan would face up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Federal Magistrate Judge Susan Cox said the case will move to the court of Judge John Tharp, and set the next pretrial hearing on March 3 in United States District Court in Chicago.
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