The DOJ recently announced that Ali Charaf Damache, an Algerian man who resided in Ireland, and Mohammad Hassan Khalid, a Pakistani citizen and U.S. lawful permanent resident who resided in Maryland, have been charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists in a superseding indictment returned on October 20, 2011 in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Damache, aka “Theblackflag,” 46, is charged in the superseding indictment with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and one count of attempted identity theft to facilitate an act of international terrorism. Damache was arrested by authorities in Ireland in March 2010 where he is currently being held on unrelated charges. The United States intends to seek his extradition from Ireland to stand trial in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. If convicted of the charges against him in the superseding indictment, Damache faces a potential sentence of 45 years in prison.

Khalid, aka “Abdul Ba’aree ‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Hassan Al-Afghani Al-Junoobi W’at-Emiratee,” 18, is charged in the superseding indictment with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. Khalid was arrested in Ellicot City, Md., on July 6, 2011, and is currently in custody in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. If convicted of the charge against him in the superseding indictment, Khalid faces a potential sentence of 15 years in prison.

The indictment alleges that, from about 2008 through July 2011, Damache and Khalid conspired with Colleen R. LaRose, Jamie Paulin Ramirez and others to provide material support and resources, including logistical support, recruitment services, financial support, identification documents and personnel, to a conspiracy to kill overseas. LaRose, aka “Fatima LaRose,” aka “JihadJane,” pleaded guilty in February 2011 in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, false statements, and attempted identity theft. Ramirez pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in March 2011 to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.

According to the indictment, Damache, Khalid and others devised and coordinated a violent jihad organization consisting of men and women from Europe and the United States divided into a planning team, a research team, an action team, a recruitment team and a finance team; some of whom would travel to South Asia for explosives training and return to Europe to wage violent jihad.

The indictment alleges that Damache, Khalid, LaRose and others recruited men online to wage violent jihad in South Asia and Europe. In addition, Damache, Khalid, LaRose and others allegedly recruited women who had passports and the ability to travel to and around Europe in support of violent jihad. The indictment further alleges that LaRose, Paulin-Ramirez and others traveled to and around Europe to participate in and support violent jihad; and that Khalid and LaRose and others solicited funds online for terrorists.

The investigation leading to this indictment included coordinated efforts by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Philidelphia, and the FBI Field Divisions in New York, Denver, Washington, DC, and Baltimore. Authorities in Ireland also provided assistance.

It is unclear from the indictment whether any of the co-conspirators were informants working under the direction of the FBI or if they were actual co-conspirators. If these co-conspirators were informants working with investigators then the defendants might be able to benefit from an entrapment defense. Entrapment is a complete defense to a criminal charge if (1) the government induced the crime and (2) the defendant lacked the predisposition to engage in the alleged criminal conduct. This defense is designed to discourage the government from “gaming” otherwise innocent people into thinking they can successfully engage in and attempt crimes. These individuals are subsequently arrested by the very authorities who set them up. Given that several of the co-conspirators in this case had already pled guilty it would be interesting to know if any of them exchanged their cooperation with this investigation for lighter sentences in their own cases. If so, the case for entrapment becomes more compelling.

The author of this blog is Erich Ferrari, an attorney specializing in Federal Criminal Defense matters. If you have any questions please contact him at 202-280-6370 or ferrari@ferrari-legal.com.

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