nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Harun (E.D.N.Y. May 16, 2017) (guilty verdict in prosecution of AQ member)

A pretty remarkable fact pattern in this one, and yet another successful DOJ prosecution of an al Qaeda member. Note that this one could easily have been in a military commission had Harun been captured by U.S. personnel or had he been transferred to US control in other circumstances, but since he was instead arrested in Italy—and since Italy almost certainly forbade resort to a commission as a condition of the extradition—he ended up in civilian court instead. Seems extremely likely he’ll get a life sentence.

From DOJ’s press release:

Washington – Today, a jury returned its verdict convicting al Qaeda operative Ibrahim Suleiman Adnan Adam Harun, 46, of multiple terrorism offenses including conspiracy to murder American military personnel in Afghanistan and conspiracy to bomb the U.S. embassy in Nigeria. Harun traveled to Afghanistan in the weeks before Sept. 11, 2001 where he joined al Qaeda, trained at al Qaeda training camps and participated in attacks on U.S. and Coalition troops in Afghanistan in which two American service members were killed and others were seriously wounded in 2003. Harun also received training in explosives from an al Qaeda weapons expert and traveled from Pakistan to Nigeria intending to attack U.S. government facilities there.

The guilty verdict was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary B. McCord for National Security, Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Rohde for the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office and Commissioner James P. O’Neill of the NYPD.

“Harun is an al Qaeda operative who targeted U.S. personnel and diplomatic facilities across two continents. The evidence presented at trial established that the defendant and other jihadists attacked a U.S. military patrol in Afghanistan, resulting in the death of two American soldiers and the serious injury of others. Today’s guilty verdict ensures that the defendant will be held accountable for his acts of terrorism,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. “I want to thank the many agents, analysts, and prosecutors whose hard work and dedication made this result possible.”

“As demonstrated by this case, the United States will be tireless in its efforts to hold al-Qaeda members accountable when they target American citizens serving their country abroad. We are firmly committed to bringing such terrorists to justice,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Rohde. Ms. Rohde expressed her grateful appreciation to the Department of Defense Army investigators, the Office of Military Commissions, the Italian Ministry of Justice, the Prosecutor’s Office in Palermo, Italy, the Italian National Police, Guardia di Finanza and Carabinieri authorities for their support and assistance.

“We hope the verdict today shows the public the FBI New York JTTF and our law enforcement partners are still arresting, charging and trying operatives for al-Qaeda 15 years after 9/11 because we won’t give up the obligation to bring terrorists to justice,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Sweeney. “It should also prove to anyone who wishes to harm our country, we will not stop, and we will never forget.”

“Al Qaeda operative Ibrahim Suleiman Adnan Adam Harun pledged allegiance to a known terrorist organization, conspiring to kill coalition soldiers in Afghanistan and even bomb a U.S. embassy in Nigeria,” said Commissioner O’Neill. “Today’s conviction holds the defendant responsible for the terror he waged overseas. I am thankful to the detectives, agents, and more than 50 partner agencies on the Joint Terrorism Task Force here in Manhattan and to the prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York who continue bring rigorous terrorism cases in federal court.”

Harun, also known as “Spin Ghul,” “Abu Tamim,” “Esbin Gol,” “Isbungoul,” “Joseph Johnson” and “Mortala Mohamed Adam,” was convicted on all five counts presented to the jury, which include conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals; conspiracy to bomb a government facility; conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, al Qaeda; providing and attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda; and use of explosives in connection with terrorist activities.

During the two-week trial, the government established that Harun, purportedly a citizen of Niger, traveled from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan in late summer of 2001 to join a jihadist group. There, he moved into an al Qaeda guesthouse – a registration center for new al Qaeda recruits – where he was living on Sept. 11, 2001. Immediately after the September 11 terrorist attacks, al Qaeda military leaders sent Harun to training camps in Afghanistan, in anticipation of an American invasion. At these camps, he learned how to use weapons and explosives, met top al Qaeda leaders and received his “kunya” (nom de guerre) “Spin Ghul,” meaning the, “White Rose.” Harun then traveled to Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas region of Pakistan, where he operated under Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi, one of bin Laden’s deputies who was al Qaeda’s top military commander in Afghanistan at that time.

On April 25, 2003, Harun and fellow al Qaeda jihadists ambushed a U.S. military patrol from Firebase Shkin. Harun fired machinegun rounds and threw grenades at American soldiers while shouting “Allahu Akhbar” or “God is Great.” Two U.S. servicemen were killed in the attack, Private First Class Jerod Dennis, 19, of Oklahoma, and Airman First Class Raymond Losano, 24, of Texas. Several other soldiers were seriously wounded. Harun was also wounded but escaped to Pakistan. A pocket-sized Koran recovered at the scene contained Harun’s fingerprints and a journal describing the attacks contained Harun’s alias.

While recovering from his wounds in Pakistan, Harun met with senior al Qaeda officials – including Abu Faraj al-Libi (Abu Faraj), then al Qaeda’s external operations chief – and expressed his desire to engage in acts of terror against U.S. interests outside of Afghanistan, specifically attacks similar to 1998 al Qaeda bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Harun also swore “bayat” – or formal allegiance – to bin Laden through bin Laden’s military commander Abdul Hadi.

In summer of 2003, Harun traveled from Pakistan to Nigeria, where he planned to bomb the U.S. Embassy. He recruited accomplices, scouted the Embassy and other potential Western targets, and sent an accomplice to find explosives. He also met with local terrorist leaders to build up al Qaeda’s network in West Africa.

In 2004, Harun directed a co-conspirator to travel from Nigeria to deliver information and materials to al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan. After learning that the co-conspirator had been arrested in Pakistan, Harun fled Nigeria. At approximately the same time, the FBI obtained a hard drive containing a letter written from Harun’s al Qaeda handler to Harun, providing him with detailed instructions on how to attack Americans in Nigeria. The letter specifically instructed Harun to target Americans – whom he described as “the head of the snake” – at “locations where Americans congregate,” such as embassies, hotels and “places where they gather for fun.” The al Qaeda handler also instructed Harun to obtain one ton of explosives for the bombing operation in Nigeria.

Harun then traveled to Libya where he planned to surreptitiously enter Europe to carry out terrorist attacks against Western interests. In early 2005, however, he was arrested by Libyan authorities and held in custody until his release in June 2011. Subsequently, Harun was arrested on June 24, 2011 by Italian authorities.

Harun was indicted in the U.S. on Feb. 21, 2012, and the Italian Minister of Justice ordered his extradition on Sept. 14, 2012 to face the charges pending in the Eastern District of New York.

When sentenced by U.S. District Judge Brian M. Cogan on June 22, Harun faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shreve Ariail, Melody Wells and Matthew J. Jacobs of the Eastern District of New York, and Trial Attorney Joseph N. Kaster of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

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