The lawyer for a man accused of helping a friend try to join ISIS fighters accused the FBI and prosecutors of creating cases against young Muslim men.
Joseph Hassan Farrokh, 28, of Woodbridge, Virginia, was arrested Friday afternoon at the Richmond International Airport as he attempted to board a flight to Chicago. Officials said once he reached Chicago, he intended to board a flight to the Middle East. Mahmoud Amin Mohamed Elhassan, 25, also of Woodbridge, was arrested Friday evening after returning from driving Farrokh to Richmond.
Both defendants made their initial court appearances Tuesday.
Elhassan was arrested after he lied to FBI investigators about where Farrokh was going, prosecutors said, but his lawyer, Ashraf Nubani, says Elhassan is a victim of prejudice against Islam or Muslims.
As the case unfolds, Nubani hopes to show the FBI created this case.
“The issue is the way the government goes about these cases,” Nubani said. “They had three informants in this case who were looking for people that they can get in trouble. They thought that they found someone, and my client is only charged with aiding and abetting that someone.”
More than a dozen friends who attend the same Islamic Center as the defendants attended the hearing. One told News4 Elhassan was taking community college classes and never showed signs of radicalism.
Farrokh is charged with attempting to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
According to the criminal complaints, he had been trying to leave the United States and join ISIS in Syria since Nov. 20, 2015. The complaints state Elhassan introduced Farrokh to a person who Elhassan believed had connections to individuals engaged in jihad overseas. The person was an FBI informant cooperating with law enforcement as part of a plea deal for a reduced sentence in a criminal case, according to the complaint.
Farrokh and Elhassan each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, if convicted.
The defendants will return to court within the week for bond hearings. Elhassan's attorney said he'll ask for his client be freed on bond before trial.