Anaheim's Nader Salem Elhuzayel and Muhanad Elfatih M.A. Badawi were convicted today of conspiring to aid a foreign terrorist organization, in this case ISIS.
Elhuzayel, who was also convicted of bank fraud, is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 19. The jury also found Badawi guilty of bank fraud and aiding and abetting an attempt to provide support for terrorists. He learns his punishment on Sept. 26.
Both 25, Elhuzayel and Badawi obsessively praised Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria on social media, a federal prosecutor alleged in her opening statement to the jury in Santa Ana earlier this month.
They were initially indicted on charges of conspiring to aid a foreign terrorist organization, but the government later charged Elhuzayel additionally with bank fraud due to allegations he came up with a scheme to illegally withdraw money from bank accounts.
Badawi was slapped with separate counts of aiding and abetting an attempt to provide support for terrorists and financial aid fraud.
The central allegation in the case had Badawi using $2,865 he obtained from a Pell grant to buy Elhuzayel a one-way plane ticket from LAX to Tel Aviv, where he would deplane during a stopover in Turkey and eventually “die [as] a martyr on the battlefield,” according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Deirdre Eliot.
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The pair shared photos of beheadings of “unbelievers,” and Badawi made a video of Elhuzayel swearing allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Eliot told jurors.
But Elhuzayel should have been acquitted on the legal technicality that the U.S. did not recognize ISIS as a terrorist organization at the time of his May 21, 2015, arrest at LAX, argued his attorney, who also claimed his client was traveling to Israel to marry a woman Elhuzayel met online, noting his luggage was checked through to Tel Aviv.
Badawi’s attorney claimed he was all talk and no action when it came to his social media posts and that he was duped by Elhuzayel about what her client’s loan to Elhuzayel was going to be used for overseas, rejecting the notion that he was bound for Israel to marry someone.
The convictions could send both men to prison for decades, according to federal authorities.