HOUSTON — A Palestinian man who was born in Iraq was ordered into custody Wednesday on charges contained in a three-count indictment alleging he attempted to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization.
These charges resulted from an investigation conducted by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and U.S. Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with the assistance of the Houston Police Department.
Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, 24, was charged in a sealed indictment returned Jan. 6. On Jan. 13, the government presented testimony regarding the alleged crimes and evidence in support of his continued detention pending trial. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court found probable cause that Al Hardan committed the crimes alleged, and that he posed a flight risk. The court further noted that there was no set of restrictions that could assure Al Hardan’s appearance in court, noting that neither he nor his family has significant ties to the United States.
Al Hardan entered the United States as a refugee from Iraq on Nov. 2, 2009. He was granted U.S. permanent residence status Aug. 22, 2011; he resides in Houston.
Al Hardan is charged with one count each of attempting to provide material support to ISIL, unlawfully procuring U.S. citizenship or naturalization, and making false statements.
The indictment alleges that Al Hardan attempted to provide material support and resources, including training, expert advice and assistance, and personnel – specifically himself – to a known foreign terrorist organization. According to the allegations, he also knowingly responded, certified and swore untruthfully on his formal application when applying to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. He allegedly represented that he was not associated with a terrorist organization when, in fact, he associated with members and sympathizers of ISIL throughout 2014, according to the charges. The indictment further alleges that during an interview in October 2015, Al Hardan falsely represented that he had never received any type of weapons training, when he allegedly received automatic machine gun training.
The charge of attempting to provide material support to terrorists carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. The charge of false citizenship procurement carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison (if the offense was committed to facilitate an act of international terrorism). The charge of making false statements carries a maximum sentence of eight years in prison. If convicted, any potential sentence will be determined by the court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal history, if any, the defendant’s role in the offense, and the characteristics of the violation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ralph Imperato is prosecuting this case with Trial Attorney Kashyap Patel of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.