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Criminal offense of aiding Isis requires factual proof

It is illegal to give support to the Islamic State by trying to help people sign up for the group and/or help them make plans to travel to a foreign country to join their ranks. The most recent instance in New York of such a charge took place when federal officials in Manhattan charged a 22-year-old man with the criminal offense of attempting to travel to join Isis. They charged him also with attempting to assist someone else, who was apparently an undercover agent, to leave the country for the same purpose.

The man was brought before the federal court and held without bail, despite his attorney's pleas. Authorities found a passport wrapped in $2,400 cash, which he allegedly was holding to leave the country and carry out his plans. His lawyer argued to the court that the man talked a lot but never did anything to carry out the expressed intentions.

Nationwide, some 90 people have been charged with similar criminal offenses since 2014. It is unknown how many of those cases ended in guilty pleas or guilty verdicts. Authorities reported in this case that they found an Islamic flag, a martial arts weapon and combat-survival knives in the man's apartment. In 2014, when he was rejected for a second time trying to enter Great Britain, authorities allegedly found Islamic flags and images of explosions on his cell phone.

Defense counsel always has a tough challenge in defending this kind of case. In some instances, the defense will be similar to the one hinted at earlier, and that is that the defendant talks a lot but never really had any intent to commit a criminal offense. That could be a tough proposition here, due to the money allegedly wrapped around the passport. Furthermore, a long list of circumstantial evidence appears to be cited by the prosecution. Each bit of circumstantial evidence can be argued down, but when the list is long, the chance of coincidence or something other than criminal intent under New York law shrinks into insignificance.

Source: reuters.com, "U.S. arrests New York man for providing support to Islamic State", Nate Raymond, May 24, 2016

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