SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — Two Anaheim men were convicted Tuesday on charges of trying to help the Islamic State terrorist group.
Nader Salem Elhuzayel and Muhanad Elfatih M.A. Badawi, both 25, were convicted of conspiring to aid a foreign terrorist organization.
Elhuzayel was also found guilty of bank fraud. Badawi was found guilty of aiding and abetting terrorists as well as financial aid fraud.
Jurors deliberated for an hour before reaching the verdicts.
Prosecutors said the men posted ISIS propaganda on social media and were quote as saying: “it would be a blessing to fight for the cause of Allah.”
“This is a strong message to anyone out there, college-aged kids, that put stuff on Facebook, Twitter, do videos. Know that that information, at some point, could be brought into a courtroom, and they’re going to need to defend it. So don’t post it,” warned Badawi’s attorney, Kate Corrigan.
Corrigan conceded that her client was not a terrorist; he did not speak Arabic or knew how to shoot guns.
She claimed her client was duped by a dishonest Elhuzayel about what he intended to do with money Badawi loaned him.
Elhuzayel’s attorney argued that his client should be acquitted on the legal technicality that the United States did not recognize the Islamic State as a terrorist organization at the time of the defendant’s arrest.
According to federal prosecutors, Elhuzayel used the ISIS flag as his profile picture on Facebook.
In October 2014, Badawi made a video of Elhuzayel pledging allegiance to the leader of ISIS and pledging to travel to Syria to be an ISIS fighter, prosecutors said.
In March 2015, Badawi received a $2,865 Pell grant, which prosecutors said he used to buy a one-way airline ticket for Elhuzayel to fly from LAX to Tel Aviv, Israel.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Deirdre Eliot told jurors the two posted on social media provocative comments with Badawi saying: “Either you’re with (al-Baghdadi, ISIS leader) or you’re with Barack Obama.”
Elhuzayel posted “May God grant us 72 virgins” for martyring themselves, Eliot said.
Elhuzayel’s lawyer told reporters after the verdicts that his client, an Israeli citizen, was flying to Israel to marry a woman, not to aid terrorists.
Badawi made headlines when he lost so much weight while in custody in December, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter issued an order to force-feed him.
At one hearing, Carter even reached into his pocket to buy peanut butter, bread and other groceries for Badawi at a local store so he could have something to eat in court and avoid the force-feeding.
Elhuzayel faces hundreds of years in prison when he is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 19.
Badawi faces up to 35 years behind bars when he is due to be sentenced on Sept. 26.