Tes­ti­mony by col­lege stu­dent’s fam­ily may be key

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Larry Neumeis­ter

The out­come of Man­hat­tan’s first Is­lamic State-re­lated ter­ror­ism trial may hinge on the tes­ti­mony of fam­ily mem­bers of a New York col­lege stu­dent who died in Syria, a like­li­hood il­lus­trated Thurs­day when a le­gal fight erupted over pho­to­graphs that may con­firm his death.

The yet-to-oc­cur tes­ti­mony by the fam­ily mem­bers in the trial of an Ari­zona man, Ahmed Mo­hammed elGam­mal, was promised in open­ing state­ments by As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney An­drew DeFilip­pis. He told ju­rors the fam­ily mem­bers could de­scribe how the stu­dent, Samy el-Goarany, acted be­fore he headed to Syria in Jan­uary 2015 to join the Is­lamic State.

El-Gam­mal has pleaded not guilty to charges that he aided the Is­lamic State ter­ror group by help­ing el-Goarany get to Syria.

On Thurs­day, de­fense at­tor­ney An­nal­isa Miron told U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos that she had asked pros­e­cu­tors to pro­vide orig­i­nal ver­sions of pho­to­graphs given to the govern­ment by el-Goarany’s fa­ther, Mo­hamed, that “pur­port to de­pict” his son’s death.

She said the de­fense team for el-Gam­mal, who lives in a Phoenix sub­urb, only learned in Novem­ber about the pic­tures af­ter they noted that there was no proof that elGoarany was dead be­yond a let­ter sent to his fam­ily in late 2015 claim­ing that he had been killed while fight­ing.

She said the de­fense may chal­lenge in­tro­duc­tion of the pic­tures as ev­i­dence at the trial on the grounds that they can­not be au­then­ti­cated and it can’t be ex­plained ex­actly when and how they were re­ceived by the fam­ily.

DeFilip­pis said the fa­ther does not re­call ex­actly when he re­ceived the pic­tures and

a re­cent search he con­ducted of his elec­tronic de­vices did not re­veal the in­for­ma­tion ei­ther. The prose­cu­tor said the fa­ther ap­par­ently re­ceived the pic­tures through an elec­tronic trans­mis­sion and then had an­other son email it to pros­e­cu­tors.

Miron sug­gested in her open­ing state­ment ear­lier this week that el-Goarany may have had plenty of help get­ting to Syria, in­clud­ing from fam­ily mem­bers. She said el-Gam­mal was not guilty and would be proven so.

Al­ready, pros­e­cu­tors have in­tro­duced ev­i­dence that elGoarany, af­ter leav­ing for

Syria, com­mu­ni­cated elec­tron­i­cally with his fa­ther, his brother Tarek el-Goarany and his cousin, Ahmed el-Goarany.

Pros­e­cu­tors say there is lit­tle ev­i­dence of el-Gam­mal and el-Goarany speak­ing di­rectly about the Is­lamic State be­cause they usu­ally spoke in code.

Over ob­jec­tions by the de­fense, pros­e­cu­tors have shown ju­rors two videos de­pict­ing vi­o­lence in­volv­ing the ter­ror group. In one, a pris­oner is seen fall­ing in a field af­ter be­ing shot and, in an­other, the heads of de­cap­i­tated Syr­ian regime sol­diers are seen on fence posts.

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