Wed | Oct 4, 2023

el-Faisal gets 18 yrs on terrorism rap in US

Published:Friday | March 24, 2023 | 1:18 AMSashana Small/Staff Reporter
Abdullah el-Faisal.
Abdullah el-Faisal.

Controversial cleric Abdullah el-Faisal has been sentenced to 18 years in a United Stated prison and five years post-release supervision after being convicted on terrorism charges in a first-of-its-kind case in New York in January.

After a two-month trial in which prosecutors referred to him as one of the world’s most influential English-speaking terrorists, the 59-year-old Jamaican was convicted for recruiting, soliciting, and inspiring students and followers to pledge allegiance to, travel to, join and commit acts of terrorism on behalf of the Islamic State, also called ISIS.

According to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, beginning in November 2016, el-Faisal, who was born Trevor William Forrest, and an undercover New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer began communicating remotely while the defendant was living in St James, Jamaica.

Ultimately, he provided the undercover officer with contact information for an individual based in Raqqa, Syria. In early 2017, that individual contacted the undercover officer and began collecting information about this person’s location and whereabouts in order to facilitate entry into the Islamic State.

Over emails, text messages, and video chats, el-Faisal encouraged the undercover officer to view his lectures online and sent propagandist reports from an official Islamic State news outlet. After their initial exchanges, the defendant offered to help the undercover officer leave the US and travel to the Middle East to support foreign fighters abroad.

el-Faisal also offered to connect this individual with his contacts in ISIS, cautioning and coaching the undercover officer to be careful as to what she said to whom, including using coded language and using an encrypted chat tool while communicating with el-Faisal and his associates.

When the undercover officer informed el-Faisal that she was certified to perform first-aid and CPR and wanted to go overseas to provide aid to ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria, el-Faisal then suggested that the undercover officer marry someone in the Islamic State to enable travel abroad. He offered to broker the arrangement.

Members of the NYPD Intelligence Bureau, along with the undercover officer, travelled to the Middle East in 2017 and were given information from el-Faisal on how to contact that person in the Islamic State.

He was extradited to the United States in August 2020 after being indicted by the NYPD on five counts of terrorism.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Leonard Bragg Jr hailed the conviction, saying that el-Faisal’s actions were instrumental in facilitating the deaths of innocent people.

“Today’s sentencing makes our city, and our nation, safer,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said yesterday. “As long as supporters of international terrorism continue to threaten the people we serve, the NYPD and our law-enforcement partners will work tirelessly to bring them to justice.”

el-Faisal was previously convicted in the UK of crimes related to inciting murder and using racially charged, hateful rhetoric in furtherance of terrorist ideologies.

In a recent interview with The Gleaner, The Islamic Council of Jamaica said it had advised the cleric to change his ways.

“He was warned before that if he never changed his path to come on the correct path, this sort of destruction would have come to him. We do not rejoice over what happened to him as we do not wish it for anybody, but we say that he drew wrath upon himself. So whatsoever comes to him, he drew it upon himself,” Public Relations Officer Abu Ibrahim said.