Against the advice of prosecutors, a U.S. district judge sentenced a young college student from Texas who planned to join ISIS to 18 months in prison followed by five years of supervision.
Prosecutors determined Asher Abid Khan, 23, a U.S. citizen and mechanical engineering student at the University of Houston, should receive a sentence of more than 20 years for his crime. However, Judge Lynn N. Hughes recognized Khan deradicalized and rehabilitated himself. In addition, Khan was already contributing to society by speaking to other young people about avoiding the path he wrongly chose.
Khan, whose family is originally from Pakistan, was 19 when he began watching ISIS propaganda videos online about the suffering of children under the Assad regime in Syria. He came to believe joining ISIS’ Islamist caliphate and overthrowing Assad was a noble purpose.
“When I read my old text messages I can’t believe how stupid and ignorant I was,” he told the judge.
Khan’s radicalization process began when he was Australia. In fact, it was from there that Kahn, in 2014, appeared on the radar of the FBI after he sent a Facebook message to an old friend from high school, Sixto Ramiro Garcia, who attended the same mosque as Khan in Texas.
Khan told Garcia he wanted to join ISIS and asked him to join as well. Kahn told an alleged ISIS recruiter at the time that he wanted to “die as a shahid (martyr).”
The two made plans to meet in Turkey near the Syrian border in February of 2014. They both traveled to Turkey, but when Khan arrived at the airport in Istanbul, he received frantic messages from his family saying his mother was in intensive care. The messages were a ruse, but they worked.
Khan returned home. Back in Houston, Khan sent Garcia $200 to $300 to help cover his costs. Six months later, Garcia made it to an ISIS boot camp and within four months, was killed fighting for the terror group.
At some point Khan realized he had been duped by ISIS. He spent his time back in Houston attending school, holding down a job and later sharing his experience with young people to help them avoid making the mistakes that he did.
His attorney David Alder told the court, “The man that stands here is a very, very, very different man than the stupid, naive man who believed this was a good thing to do.”
Addressing Garcia’s family in court, Khan said, “I am deeply sorry that things happened the way that they did and for whatever I may have done to facilitate it. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”
Khan became the sixth person in Texas to plead guilty to attempting to provide material support for ISIS.
Meanwhile in Alabama, 23-year-old Aziz Ihab Sayyed from Huntsville pleaded guilty to planning an ISIS-inspired bomb attack on a local police station and acquiring the materials to do so.
Sayyed was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
He also admitted to trying to put together a terror cell to carry out the attack. He was tracked down with the help of an FBI informant posing as an ISIS operative.