US court sentences refugee from Iraq to 16 years for IS support
A refugee from Iraq was sentenced by a Houston court on Monday to 16 years in prison for seeking to join the Islamic State (IS) group and learn bomb-making skills.
Omar Faraj Saeed al-Hardan, a 25-year-old of Palestinian origin who was born in Iraq and lived in refugee camps there and in Jordan, was accepted into the United States in 2009.
He earned his permanent residency two years later and, according to US law enforcement, in 2013 began communicating with another refugee in California, discussing travelling to Syria to fight for Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate in the war-torn country.
The next year, he discussed with an FBI informant his hopes of travelling to fight with IS and a desire to be trained in making detonators for improvised explosive devices.
He and the FBI informant also practised shooting with an AK-47, and Hardan posted statements in support of IS online, according to the Justice Department.
He was arrested in January 2016 and charged with providing material support to IS.
"Any person who provides material support to a foreign terrorist organisation will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," said Acting US Attorney Abe Martinez.
President Donald Trump has slashed by more than half the country's annual intake of refugees and placed restrictions on other immigrants, saying it is a conduit for potential terrorists to enter the United States.
Early in 2016, Texas Governor Greg Abbott cited Hardan’s case to argue against plans to resettle Syrian refugees in his state.
Since the Refuge Act of 1980, no refugee has been involved in a deadly militant attack in the US, according to a report published last year by the Cato Institute.
Over the past 40 years, 3.25 million refugees have been resettled in the US, but only 20 have been convicted of terrorism charges.
Separately, a former Washington-area transit police officer who converted to Islam was convicted on Monday of trying to help IS.
Nicholas Young, 37, had tried to help a friend join up with IS, only to find that the other man was an undercover FBI informant.
He had travelled to Libya in 2011, where he said he fought alongside rebels to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi.
Oddly, Young was also called a neo-Nazi by prosecutors; besides watching IS propaganda videos, he had an interest in far-right politics and literature.
His lawyers defended him as someone with quirky hobbies.
He faces up to 60 years in prison.