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More questions than answers at hearing for ‘hipster terrorist’

Attorney Thomas Anthony Durkin in 2012 | File photo

The Chicago lawyer for a man known as the “hipster terrorist” raised new questions in federal court Thursday about the government’s investigation of his client.

Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, 23, of Sacramento, was indicted here in March for allegedly flying from Chicago to join terrorists overseas. The indictment came down after Al-Jayab had already been charged in California with lying to authorities about international terrorism. He is now being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago.

But Thomas Anthony Durkin, his local defense attorney, told U.S. District Judge Sara Ellis on Thursday that he has been contacted by a Swiss journalist asking about Al-Jayab’s alleged role in an ISIS plot in Bern, Switzerland. Durkin said he told the journalist it was “total news to me.”

“I would have thought we’d learned about that already,” Durkin said after court.

But Durkin also said he’s discovered that Al-Jayab’s Yahoo account was accessed in a rural part of Switzerland between Zurich and Bern in December 2013, when he said the government has accused Al-Jayab of being in Syria. Though Al-Jayab has an aunt in Switzerland, Durkin said he’s not sure his client has ever been there.

The Yahoo account was also used in Cyprus and Georgia in November 2013, Georgia again in December 2013, and Turkey in January 2014.

“There’s something wrong here,” Dur kin told the judge. But then he added: “I don’t know enough of the facts.”

An English translation of a German news article indicates Al-Jayab’s name came up during the trial of a suspected ISIS cell in Swiss federal criminal court. Two defendants in the case are alleged to have planned an attack with Al-Jayab, according to the article’s translation.

The judge had little reaction to Durkin’s revelations, which he brought up during a routine status hearing, other than to say, “I don’t know that now is the time” to argue about them. Instead, the judge granted a prosecutor’s earlier request to delay filing deadlines while keeping Al-Jayab’s trial date in October 2017 intact.

Al-Jayab’s Chicago indictment charges him with attempting to provide material support to acts of violence overseas. Federal prosecutors described him as an Iraqi refugee who came to the United States in October 2012. They said he lived in Arizona and Wisconsin, and he flew from Chicago to Turkey on Nov. 9, 2013, before traveling to Syria. He returned to the United States in January 2014 and settled in California.