nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Harroun (E.D. Va. Mar. 28, 2013) (US citizen prosecuted for fighting in Syria with AQI-related group)

The criminal complaint is available here (along with some commentary on the charges available in this case, and the background of the defendant). DOJ’s press release is below:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Eric Harroun, 30, of Phoenix, was arrested and charged with conspiring to use a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) while fighting with the al-Nusrah Front, an organization commonly referred to as “al Qa’ida in Iraq” and designated as a foreign terrorist organization since October 2004.

Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement.

Harroun, a U.S. citizen who served with the U. S. Army from 2000 to 2003, was charged by criminal complaint with conspiring to use a destructive device outside of the United States, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, if convicted. Harroun made his initial appearance today in federal court in Alexandria, Va., before U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa C. Buchanan.

The al-Nusrah Front is one of several aliases used by the “al Qa’ida in Iraq” terrorist organization, and since November 2011 the group has claimed responsibility for nearly 600 terrorist attacks in Syria.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Harroun allegedly crossed into Syria in January 2013 and fought with members of the al-Nusrah Front against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. The affidavit alleges that Harroun was trained to use an RPG by members of the terrorist organization and that he fired an RPG and posted online multiple photographs of himself carrying or posing with RPGs and other military weapons. Harroun allegedly participated in attacks led by the al-Nusrah Front and was part of an RPG team, for which he carried anti-personnel and anti-armor rockets.

This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew Peterson, Carter Burwell and Lynn Haaland are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States, with assistance from the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

Criminal complaints are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.justice.gov/usao/vae. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov or on https://pcl.uscourts.gov.

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