Lo­cal man died fight­ing for ISIS, case reveals

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE -

Samy El-Goarany left his Mid­dle­town home in 2015, then flew to Tur­key and Syria, the gov­ern­ment says.

A col­lege stu­dent from Or­ange County who was killed fight­ing for the Is­lamic State group in Syria made a video try­ing to clear the name of an Ari­zona man who was charged with help­ing him join, pros­e­cu­tors said.

The 24-year-old stu­dent’s Novem­ber death was re­vealed in pa­pers filed Mon­day and Tues­day in Man­hat­tan fed­eral court. The stu­dent was iden­ti­fied in court pa­pers as Samy ElGoarany.

The Ari­zona man, Ahmed Mo­hammed el Gam­mal, who’s ac­cused of help­ing the stu­dent travel to Syria and re­ceive mil­i­tary and re­li­gious-style train­ing, was ar­rested last year and has pleaded not guilty. His lawyers said the video is un­re­li­able and “overly prej­u­di­cial” and should be pre­cluded from a trial sched­uled for De­cem­ber.

Pros­e­cu­tors say El-Goarany left his par­ents’ home in Mid­dle­town in Jan­uary 2015, telling them he was re­turn­ing to his Man­hat­tan col­lege. In­stead, the gov­ern­ment said, he flew to Tur­key and then Syria.

Reached by phone, ElGoarany’s fa­ther said the fam­ily didn’t wish to speak. Court pa­pers did not iden­tify El-Goarany’s col­lege.

Pros­e­cu­tors said an uniden­ti­fied per­son con­tacted a rel­a­tive in Novem­ber to say El-Goarany was killed fight­ing in Syria. The per­son pro­vided pho­to­graphs of a handwritten note in which the stu­dent said, “If you’re read­ing this then know that I’ve been killed in bat­tle,” pros­e­cu­tors said.

The gov­ern­ment also said it had found a YouTube video in which El-Goarany, clad in mil­i­tary fa­tigues, said on Sept. 8, 2015, two weeks after el Gam­mal’s ar­rest, that he was in the “Is­lamic State.”

Pros­e­cu­tors said El-Goarany claimed in the video in an “un­abashed ef­fort to falsely ex­cul­pate el Gam­mal — that no one as­sisted him in trav­el­ing to Syria, in­clud­ing ‘Ahmed Mo­hammed El Gam­mal.”

Pros­e­cu­tors ar­gued in the court pa­pers that the video should be ad­mis­si­ble at trial to show El-Goarany went to Syria to join the Is­lamic State group and that he and his co-con­spir­a­tors took ex­ten­sive mea­sures to main­tain se­crecy in the group’s meth­ods for re­cruit­ing per­son­nel and help­ing re­cruits travel.

El-Goarany’s lawyers said in court pa­pers that the video de­picts their client sit­ting on a mat in a sparsely dec­o­rated room. They say he states his name, ex­plains he is a U.S. cit­i­zen “cur­rently re­sid­ing in the Is­lamic State” and says el Gam­mal did not as­sist him in his trav­els.

The lawyers said the video should not be shown to ju­rors be­cause it “con­sti­tutes in­ad­mis­si­ble hearsay.”

“Ad­di­tion­ally, the en­tire video should be pre­cluded as overly prej­u­di­cial,” they wrote, not­ing that El-Goarany is un­avail­able to tes­tify at el Gam­mal’s trial and can­not fur­ther ex­plain how el Gam­mal did not fa­cil­i­tate his travel.

The de­fense lawyers also chal­lenged the ad­mis­si­bil­ity of El-Goarany’s handwritten note, say­ing claims of his death were “un­re­li­able,” es­pe­cially since he had writ­ten to his brother weeks ear­lier to say he might have to fall out of con­tact be­cause he was being mon­i­tored.

“It is not be­yond the stretch of the imag­i­na­tion that the let­ter was writ­ten so that El-Goarany could ‘dis­ap­pear,’” the lawyers wrote.

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