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Man facing U.S. terrorism charges does not enter plea in Houston court
January 8, 2016 / 4:48 PM / 2 years ago

Man facing U.S. terrorism charges does not enter plea in Houston court

HOUSTON (Reuters) - A Palestinian born in Iraq who entered the United States as a refugee more than five years ago appeared in federal court in Houston on Friday but did not enter a plea to charges he supplied support to Islamic State and lied to U.S. officials.

Omar Faraj Saeed Al-Hardan, 24, was one of two Middle Eastern men whose arrests on terrorism-related charges U.S. authorities announced Thursday. The most serious charge carries up to 25 years in prison.

Neither was charged with plotting an attack on the United States. More than 75 U.S. residents allegedly radicalised by Muslim militants have been arrested since 2014.

Al-Hardan was appointed an attorney and a judge set a bond hearing for Wednesday, when he was expected to enter a plea. Details of the case against him were not released in the hearing that lasted about 25 minutes.

A U.S. prosecutor described Al-Hardan as being strongly tied to the militant group.

“He was prepared to take whatever action on his own behalf to assist the organization,” Kenneth Magidson, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas, told reporters after the hearing.

Al-Hardan, granted legal permanent residency status in the United States in August 2011 though not yet a U.S. citizen, said through an interpreter he needed the judge to explain to him what an indictment was, adding he did not speak English well.

He is charged with aiding Islamic State by offering his services and material support, an indictment unsealed on Thursday said.

Wearing glasses and a gray plaid shirt, he told the judge that he made it through 11th grade at a school in Jordan. He said he was married and had one child.

He also faces two charges about providing false information to U.S. officials concerning his ties to Islamic State and being provided weapons training, it said.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, said the arrest in Houston backs his case for blocking refugees “from countries substantially controlled by terrorists” from entering the United States.

President Barack Obama announced in September that the United States would admit 10,000 Syrians over the next year for humanitarian reasons, drawing a backlash from Republicans who see the move as endangering U.S. security.

In a second related case in Sacramento on Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice said Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, 23, who came to the United States in 2012 as a refugee from Syria, was arrested on a federal charge of making a false statement involving international terrorism.

The U.S. attorney for Sacramento, Benjamin Wagner, said in a statement there were no indications Al-Jayab had planned any attacks in the United States.

The two men may have been in contact with each other, a source familiar with the case said.

Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Andrew Hay and James Dalgleish

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