A South Carolina teenager pleaded guilty on Wednesday to attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Zakaryia Abdin, 19, of Ladson, South Carolina, was arrested by the FBI at Charleston International Airport on March 30, 2017 after he tried to board a plane to the Middle East with the intention of joining and supporting SIS.
“Abdin’s attempt to provide material support to ISIS by traveling overseas put American lives at risk,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers. “That is unacceptable, and I applaud the dedicated agents and prosecutors who stopped him and have achieved this successful outcome.”
According to investigators, Abdin created a social media profile on January 3, 2017 which he used to connect with ISIS online. His profile caught the attention of investigators from the Joint Terrorism Task Force who met with him on January 20, 2017 in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina regarding his online activities.
During this interview, a Terror Task Force agent informed Abdin that it was illegal to support ISIS and any other foreign terrorist organizations, but despite the warning, Abdin continued his efforts and began arranging travel plans to the Islamic State.
Following his meeting with the agent, Abdin continued making contact online through his social media accounts in an attempt to join ISIS, eventually connecting with an undercover FBI agent who was pretending to be an ISIS handler.
According to the FBI, Abdin allegedly referred to Omar Mateen, the Orlando nightclub ISIS terrorist as his “brother”, and said “I heard all over the news when he did it…And I was going to do the same thing one month later…but I did not have weapons…So I saved and saved…Got weapons.”
Along with sending the undercover agent a picture of himself with weapons, Abdin also expressed his loyalty to ISIS. He explained how he pledged loyalty to the Caliphate in 2014 and filmed himself pledging allegiance to Commander Abu Baker al Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. In the video, Abdin cited the Quran directly, pledging to “wage jihad against the enemy of Allah.”
Abdin believed the undercover agent was a member of ISIS, and he proceeded to book his travel.
According to the Department of Justice, Abdin communicated with the undercover FBI agent up until he was arrested.
“On March 23, 2017, Abdin made flight reservations aboard a commercial airline departing Charleston with a final destination of Amman, Jordan. The date for travel was set for March 30, 2017 at approximately 7:30 PM. Shortly thereafter on March 23, 2017, Abdin communicated to the undercover FBI employee that he was scheduled to arrive in Amman, Jordan on April 1, 2017, at approximately 2:05 AM.
On March 30, 2017, at approximately 4:17 PM Abdin arrived at the Charleston International Airport with one piece of luggage and a carry-on backpack. Abdin proceeded to a commercial airline ticket counter where he provided the attendant with travel documents and received a boarding pass for international travel to Amman. Abdin then proceeded from the ticketing counter toward the Transportation Security Administration’s security screening area where he was arrested. “
“The most important job of government is protecting the people of the United States from harm, whether it comes from criminals or terrorists,” said U.S. Attorney Sherri A. Lydon for the District of South Carolina . This case is an example of law enforcement doing exactly that. The threat to our safety continues to be very real. The JTTF did a great job in preventing this defendant from joining ISIS. He wanted to fight as a soldier committing acts of terror for ISIS and he didn’t care where he fought.”
Abdin, who is a U.S. citizen, is facing a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
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Turkey Human Rights, Crackdown on Press Freedom Comes Under Renewed Scrutiny in Geneva
Last week, the UK-based International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR)and the Press Emblem Campaign held an information meeting in Geneva, to coincide with the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Turkey over hate crimes, minority, and LGBT rights, and press freedoms with a specific focus on the nation’s crackdown on these rights during the failed 2016 coup and the emergency rule that followed during which the government allegedly used its security powers to arrest thousands of people who opposed it.
Turkey’s human rights record was last reviewed in 2015 during the UPR. This was the third time in 10 years that Turkey’s record has come under review
Diplomats, minister, prominent members of Turkish media and human rights defenders – including those who have been forced into exile – were present at the event. Also in attendance was former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in the Office of Global Criminal Justice Ambassador Stephen Rapp. Louise Pyne Jones, head of research, International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR) moderated the event. Two panels were held. The first was called “Press Freedom” and included Yavuz Baydar, editor-in-chief of Ahval; Evin Baris Altintas, journalist and blogger; and Massimo Frigo; senior Legal Advisor for International Commission for Jurists (ICJ). The second panel, “Human Rights Defenders,” included Dr. Sebnem Korur Fincanci; president of the Human Rights Foundation in Turkey; Nurcan Baysal, award-winning Turkish Human Rights Defender and Journalist; and Anne van Wezel, former co-chair EESC EU-Turkey Joint Consultative Committee.
Following an attempted, and failed, “coup” against the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) Party in 2016, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused many of his opponents and naysayers, including journalists who were critical of him and his government, of supporting terrorism and prosecuted many of them. Erdogan also suggested that the attempted coup was the work of exiled Imam Fethullah Gulen and his movement, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization. Turkey has asked for the United States to extradite Gulen. Gulen has been living in the United States in a self-imposed exile since 1999. Over 250 people died as a result of the failed coup attempt.
Soon after the coup, Turkey implemented a state of emergency (SOE) which it said: “was put into effect in order to ensure the continuity of effective implementation of the measures for the protection of the rights and freedoms of our citizens, democracy and the rule of law.” However, the AK Party’s critics have maintained that the AK Party used the umbrella of its broader emergency powers and continuously postponed ending that state of emergency, in an attempt to destroy its political opposition.
Many journalists were apprehended under this state of emergency until it was lifted on July 19, 2018. As such, for three straight years, and up until 2019, the Committee to Protect Journalists ranked Turkey as the worst jailer of journalists in the world. According to Turkish, English, and Arabic-language news site Ahval, when China jailed 48 journalists to Turkey’s 47.
Nurcan Baysal, an award-winning Kurdish Human Rights Defender, Journalist, and contributor to Ahval, said she was even cautious with the words she used on the panel discussion for fear of punishment by the Turkish government. “We are censoring ourselves because of these fears,” Baysal said. “For example, before coming here I asked myself if I should use certain words, should I use the word invasion, or should I use the word war, because today in Turkey even to say war is forbidden,” she said. “Everything that I say has an effect on not only my life but of the lives of my children and family.”
Ahval editor in chief Yavuz Baydar said, “No state or power can decide who is a journalist, it is the domain for professional organizations and should always be separate from power.”
According to the IOHR, “In the previous UPR cycle of Turkey, the Turkish government officially supported 14 recommendations related to strengthening the legal framework on freedom of expression and 5 recommendations specifically related to bringing terrorism legislation in line with international human rights standards.
Hugh Williamson, the Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch recently said, “The huge number of journalists, politicians, and perceived government critics in prison and on trial flies in the face of the Turkish government’s public statements about the state of human rights in the country “Turkey’s disregard of human rights is a disservice to its citizens, who deserve to live with dignity and freedom.”
Meanwhile, Turkey’s state-run pro-government newspaper the Daily Sabah put out propaganda about the Erdogan government writing, “U.N. Human Rights Council highlighted Turkey’s achievements in the fields of judiciary, human rights and humanitarian causes on Tuesday during a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) meeting in Geneva.”
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