A Lackawanna man who tried to join ISIS will be spending the next 15 years in a federal prison, after being sentenced in U.S. District Court on Monday.
Arafat Nagi, 47, traveled to Turkey twice in 2012 and 2014 to join the terrorist group in Syria, although Nagi told Judge Richard Arcara his intentions in joining ISIS were strictly for humanitarian purposes.
Nagi raised suspicions among his Lackawanna neighbors by constantly voicing support for ISIS and its leader, Abu Bakr al Bagdadi. That led to tips from the community to federal authorities in the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Lynch said Nagi even bought military gear for his venture, “He bought body armor, he bought combat gloves. He stood in front of a Shahada flag with an AK-47 dressed up with all that gear on. It was very clear what his intent was–his intent was to fight, it was to join ISIS.”
But Nagy’s defense lawyer, Jeremy Schwartz, said buying that kind of gear is necessary to survive in Syria which is in the midst of a deadly civil war.
“There are people that are not fighting that are dying every day over there. As the government noted, they had a witness that said, ‘what do I need to survive over in the Middle East?’ That does not mean survive a fight, that does not mean survive a gunfight or even a knife fight. That means how can I cross the street and live, in the middle of the night, without getting blown up or gassed?’
Schwartz told Arcara, Nagi had come to realize ISIS was a violent organization that defied Muslim beliefs in non-violence.
But U.S. Attorney James Kennedy said ISIS is a terrorist organization, and when Nagi swore his allegiance to ISIS he was pledging his support to an enemy of the United States.
“We are at war with ISIS, the United States, and anyone that tries to support an enemy of the United States is doing harm to the United States.”
Arafat Nagi even pleaded his case to Arcara, himself, trying to convince the judge he is a changed man and did not mean to harm anyone, he only wanted to help the people of Syria by providing humanitarian aid.
Judge Arcara rejected his plea for leniency and sentenced Nagi to the maximum allowed for the crime of attempting to provide material assistance and resources to a terrorist organization.