A trial against a 19-year old in South Carolina on terrorism charges was delayed because the information the suspect had was too secret to be revealed.
Both the defense lawyer and the prosecutor asked that the trial of Zakaryia Abdin be postponed due to the Classified Information Procedures Act, which could keep details under wraps. The federal law, enacted in 1980, was designed to protect the country from a national security threat.
Abdin, whose family is from Syria, was first arrested when he was 16, after he was convicted on a gun charge. During the investigation of that charge, officials learned he was plotting to join ISIS in Syria and had linked up with militant Muslims in Raleigh, North Carolina. The group he was involved with planned to rob a gun store and use the weapons to kill American soldiers.
At that time, Abdin was sentenced to juvenile prison (where he could have legally been kept until he was 21). Despite vigorous protests by the York police chief who testified twice before the juvenile parole board that Abdin would be a serious threat if released, the board decided the teenager had changed and released him after one year of detention.
He was “one of the scariest people I have ever come in contact with,” said Police Chief Andy Robinson, who requested that Abdin be held until he was 21.
Upon his release, Abdin moved to Charleston and almost immediately began making contact with ISIS again. According to federal documents, he was involved in weapon deals and plotting to join and assist the terror group.
Just nine months after his release from juvenile prison, he bought two weapons.
He began speaking on social media to someone whom he thought was an ISIS recruiter but was actually an undercover FBI agent. Abdin, who was 18 at the time, said:
“I was very close to doing what our [brother] Omar did,” referring to Omar Mateen, the Islamist gunman who slaughtered 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida in June 2016.
“I was going to do the same thing one month later,” Abdin wrote,”but I did not have weapons … so I saved and saved … got weapons.”
Talking about his plans to join ISIS, according to court documents, he said to the “recruiter”: “I have good experience in close combat…I have taken gun courses. I want to kill and be killed. I run toward the enemy like a lion to a sheep.”
He told the undercover agent he might not be able to get a passport, considering his past. In that case, he said, “I am prepared to do anything you need here.”
Under FBI monitoring, he obtained a passport and booked a flight to Jordan. He was arrested at Charleston’s airport before he could board the flight.
Abdin is currently in jail and is being held without bond.