Muhanad Badawi Held Without Bond as Danger and Flight Risk; Lawyer Says He's Innocent

UPDATE NO. 2, MAY 22, 4:28 P.M.: At a court hearing in federal court in Santa Ana this afternoon, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Block found that Muhanad Badawi posed a flight risk and danger to the community and ordered him held without bond pending trial. That's much to the chagrin of the 24-year-old Anaheim man's lawyer, who maintains Badawi did nothing wrong.


The judge ordered that Badawi's co-defendant (and Cypress College pal) Nader Elhuzayel be held pending a detention hearing set for Wednesday. Neither defendant was asked to enter a plea. Block set a preliminary hearing for June 5, which will take place unless an indictment is issued before that. Arraignment is scheduled for June 8.

Meanwhile, Kate Corrigan, Badawi's attorney, told City News Service her client had done nothing wrong: “My client did not make any steps, according to what I've seen from the
government so far, to leave the United States. He's a young man. He's a college student. He's lived here for many years. He's somebody that is very concerned about his family at this point, and he's obviously scared. He understands the severity of the charges and he's, you know, we're planning to address them as we get the evidence.''

UPDATE NO. 1, MAY 22, 1:26 P.M.: Muhanad Badawi and Nader Elhuzayel used social media to discuss the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and terrorist attacks, expressed desires to die as martyrs and made arrangements for Elhuzayel to leave the U.S. to join ISIS, according to a federal affadavit.

The Anaheim 24-year-olds were charged in Santa Ana federal court today with conspiring to provide material support to the designated foreign terrorist group ISIL, announced Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin and Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura of the Central District of California. Badawi and Elhuzayel face up to 15 years in federal prison with convictions, officials say.

The FBI confirmed that Elhuzayel was arrested at LAX, Badawi was taken at an apartment in Anaheim, and the Anaheim Crystal Inn was one of at least two places served search warrants as part of the case. There was never any local public safety threat and both suspects were apprehended unarmed, according to the bureau.

According to a federal affidavit:

[O]n May 3, 2015, Elhuzayel saw a tweet from Elton Simpson, one of the two gunmen who were killed trying to attack a conference in Garland, Texas. In this tweet, Simpson stated that he and his “bro” had pledged allegiance to the leader of ISIL. In response, Elhuzayel tweeted his support for the attempted attack and praised Simpson as a “martyr.”

In recorded conversations last month, Badawi and Elhuzayel “discussed how it would be a blessing to fight for the cause of Allah, and to die in the battlefield,” and they referred to ISIL as “we.” When Badawi expressed concerns about ISIL struggling due to airstrikes by Coalition forces, Elhuzayel responded that they had to be patient and “can you imagine when al-Qaeda joins with Islamic State?”

… Badawi responded: “We will be huge.” The two men also discussed local Muslim leaders and Elhuzayel complained that these leaders were not “legitimate” because they believed in democracy and were not fighting for an Islamic State. The men discussed where in the Middle East they would rather be, and Elhuzayel said he wanted to fight and did not want to be in the United States.

… On May 7, Badawi allowed Elhuzayel to use his credit card to purchase a one-way airline ticket for travel from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv, Israel, via Istanbul, Turkey, on a Turkish Airlines flight scheduled to depart on May 21. Badawi indicated that he would be traveling to the Middle East in the future.

The feds allege that after Elhuzayel was read his Miranda rights, he admitted that he planned to disembark in Istanbul to join ISIL and did not intend to travel on to Israel.

Elhuzayel's parents told ABC7 their son was traveling to spend the summer with relatives, not to join a terrorist group. “Completely beyond any sensible thoughts,” his father, Salem
Elhuzayel, said. “He is not the type. He is a good kid.”

His mother, Falak Elhuzayel, accused the FBI of ransacking their Crystal Inn motel room. “They stole my computers from the car,” she said. “They took my checkbooks, my credit cards, everything was gone.”

The parents informed the television reporters that their son and Badawi were classmates together at Cypress College.

The Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is actually in Anaheim, and Executive Director Hussam Ayloush said today that CAIR-LA will monitor the case against Badawi and Elhuzayel.

“Our community rejects any form of extremism,” Ayloush says in an email. “We will be closely monitoring this case as it develops. It is very important to allow the legal process to take its course and wait for the facts to emerge. As with all cases, those charged are presumed innocent until convicted in a court of law.”
The Muslim Public Affairs Council also issued a statement that blames ISIS for using “social media to prey on impressionable people,” City News Service reports. “According to law enforcement, ISIS puts out close to 100,000 tweets per day and there are at least 50,000 ISIS-related Twitter accounts.”

The group adds it is “working to bridge the relationship between law enforcement and communities to ensure that communities are safe and are treated as partners rather than suspects.”

ORIGINAL POST, MAY 22, 9:12 A.M.: Muhanad Badawi and Nader Elhuzayel, both 24 of Anaheim, have been identified as the suspects arrested Thursday night for allegedly planning to join ISIS.

Both are scheduled to be arraigned at the federal courthouse in Santa Ana today.

Few details have been released other than one man was arrested at the Crystal Inn, 2123 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, and the other was popped at Los Angeles International Airport.

There is no threat to the region as the pair has not been tied to homegrown terrorism but of planning to join ISIS overseas, according to officials with the Joint Terrorism Task Force that includes the FBI, the Anaheim Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Elhuzayel pleaded guilty in February 2014 to misdemeanor entering lands closed to entry, was sentenced to three years probation and spent six days in jail, reports the Orange County Register, citing OC court records.

But his mother, Falak Elhuzayel, told KTLA, “My son is a very good kid.”

She was interviewed as she stood crying outside Room 118 at the Crystal Inn, where the door remained splintered by the task force raid that happened around 5 p.m. Thursday.

Email: mc****@oc******.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

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