Bolingbrook teen Mohammed Hamzah Khan is “a very fervent believer in Islam” who posed no threat to the U.S. and is being prosecuted for political reasons, his attorney said Thursday after the alleged would-be ISIS fighter made his second appearance in court.
But lawyer Thomas Durkin said he’d have to be “nuts” to predict victory given what he called a “two-tiered justice system” for terrorism cases.
Khan, 19, has been a focus of intense media interest since his arrest as he tried to board a flight to Istanbul at O’Hare International Airport on Saturday afternoon.
Prosecutors say he left his parents a note expressing his anger and hatred for the West and indicating his plans to join ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq.
But speaking outside court Thursday after Khan was ordered held in custody until at least Oct. 21, Durkin said the parents never saw the note until after their son was arrested. “Hysteria” and “fear” over widely publicized ISIS beheadings were making it impossible for Khan to get a fair trial and would lead to a backlash against U.S. Muslims, he said.
“In my opinion ISIS is not a threat to the United States, and there are a lot of people who share that view” Durkin said. “So if ISIS isn’t a threat to the United States, I don’t know how he could be.”
Durkin called the beheadings “outrageous” but said the terror group had “very cleverly” used the media.
“ISIS went from a group that supposedly wasn’t a threat to the United States to being our existential enemy in a matter of weeks,” he said.
“I happen to think that this type of a prosecution is in effect a misuse of the criminal justice system to really advance our geo-political purposes.”
The parents were unaware of Khan’s alleged plans and did not report him to authorities, Durkin said, suggesting that Khan was under FBI surveillance before he was arrested.
Khan, was taking a break from his studies at Benedictine University in Lisle to earns money for tuition at the time of his arrest, Durkin said.
His parents were unaware of Khan’s alleged plans and did not report him to authorities, Durkin added, suggesting that Khan was under FBI surveillance before he was arrested.
At Thursday morning’s packed hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Cox ordered the teen held in custody until at least Oct. 21. Cox conducted only a few minutes of the hearing in public before she took Khan and lawyers for both sides into her chambers to talk in private for 45 minutes.
Prosecutors had said they wanted part of Khan’s bond hearing held in private to protect “third-party privacy interests,” and Cox made it clear that they were concerned about revealing the identity of minors associated with the case. But Durkin objected, saying Khan was “more concerned about his rights and the public’s rights” of keeping the hearing open “than getting out (of custody) today.”
The judge said she did not want to make a decision “on the fly” and said she needed to do more research before deciding whether the Oct. 21 hearing also will be partially heard in private.
It’s not the first time prosecutors have asked for a closed courtroom in a Chicago terrorism case. At a hearing before the Seventh Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals earlier this year, even terror suspect Adel Daoud’s attorneys were kicked out of the courtroom. Prosecutors also have asked for a locked court in Daoud’s case in U.S. District Court.
Durkin, who represents both Daoud and Khan, wrote Thursday morning that prosecutors’ latest request for a locked courtroom is “a clever ruse…to shield from the public and the press the intelligence agencies’ extraordinary investigative tactics and prosecutorial decision involving the defendant.”
Khan faces a potential of life behind bars if he’s convicted of trying to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
Prosecutors say he left a trail of evidence of his desire to join the barbaric terror group.
“Western societies are getting more immoral day by day,” he allegedly wrote in a three-page note to his parents. “I do not want my children to be exposed to filth like this.”
The note was part of a stash of evidence gathered during a raid of his family’s home on a quiet street in the southwest suburb, court documents state.
The note allegedly urged Khan’s parents: “PLEASE MAKE SURE NOT TO TELL THE AUTHORITIES.”