A federal magistrate judge declared a Bolingbrook teenager who allegedly wanted to join ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq a flight risk Monday and ordered him held without bond.
For the first time Monday, it was revealed that 19-year-old Mohammed Hamzah Khan also purchased airfare for two teenage siblings and tried to take them overseas with him. They didn’t make it any further than O’Hare International Airport on Oct. 4, though. Thomas Anthony Durkin, Khan’s lawyer, said authorities detained Khan’s siblings for several hours.
Prosecutors say Khan was nabbed by the FBI’s Chicago Joint Terrorism Task Force while trying to get onto an Austrian Airlines flight to Istanbul, via Vienna — and that he left a trail of evidence of his desire to join the barbaric terror group.
For now only Khan, and neither of his siblings, faces criminal charges in the case. Khan faces a potential of life behind bars if he’s convicted of trying to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan E. Cox told a packed courtroom at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse that Khan’s flight risk is “absolutely clear.” While she said she had trouble finding him a danger to his community, she ultimately sided with prosecutors on the issue because of what she called his “scorn, really, for those people around him, those Muslims around him, who aren’t making the choice to practice jihad.”
She also said Khan is “not a stable person.”
Khan’s detention hearing lasted more than two hours. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Hiller alleged Khan tried to take his two siblings, 17 and 16 at the time, “halfway around the world to a war zone.” He said Khan crafted a “calculated plan to abandon their family, abandon this community and abandon their country.”
Hiller said Khan took a job so he could cover the cost of the travel and managed the logistics of the trip — which included obtaining passports for his brother and sister.
“This is a far cry from a misguided youth who is overzealous in his religious beliefs,” Hiller said.
The prosecutor pointed to numerous writings by Khan and his siblings in which they declared their “obligation” to join the Islamic State. The writings appeared beside sketches allegedly of the ISIS flag and of Mujahideen fighters.
When Hiller finished, Durkin said he was “convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, we’ve completely gone around the bend.”
“That presentation was about as absurd a presentation as I’ve ever seen in an American courtroom,” Durkin said. “We’re talking about American children. American children. This whole idea that they renounced their country and everything else is nothing but sheer rhetoric and an attempt to do by the criminal justice system the bidding of our geo-political stance, which is so convoluted that I can’t figure it out any more.”
Durkin said prosecutors targeted Khan for his thoughts, not his actions, and he said after court he’s “concerned that American Muslims get treated differently.” He called the case against his client “bogus,” and he said Khan should be offered treatment.
“He’s a very devout, committed, thoughtful kid who bought in to some very slick advertising,” Durkin said.
Durkin tried to persuade the judge to let Khan live in Lombard with his father and uncle. The judge said she wasn’t convinced because Khan allegedly made his attempt to leave the United States with his siblings without his parents’ knowledge — and under their noses. Federal agents allegedly interviewed Khan’s parents while he was being apprehended at O’Hare, and his father and mother said they didn’t realize their children were leaving the country.
His mother thought Khan’s sister was asleep in the home, Hiller said.
While Khan was still at O’Hare, agents found a map with a hand-drawn arrow pointing from the U.S. to Turkey and then on to Syria and Iraq, documents state. A drawing of the ISIS logo with the words “Come to jihad” was also allegedly found. And in his note for his parents, Khan allegedly wrote, “I extend an invitation, to my family, to join me in the Islamic State. ”We are the lions of war,” it continued. “My nation, the dawn has emerged.”
The note indicated that Khan was disgruntled that his taxes were being “used to kill his Muslim brothers and sisters,” the feds say.
That note, and others written by his siblings, also allegedly urged Khan’s parents: “PLEASE MAKE SURE NOT TO TELL THE AUTHORITIES.”
Contributing: Kim Janssen