On Monday January 9th, the first case against ISIS to be tried in Manhattan federal court commenced, naming Ahmed Mohamed el Gammal as the defendant. As reported by the NY Post, Manhattan’s Public prosecutor, US Attorney Preet Bharara, requested that the court keep the names of the jury undisclosed. He highlighted the need to protect members of the jury from ISIS, which is “an extremely violent terrorist organization that has publicly published ‘kill lists’ of United States citizens, including New York residents.” Judge Edgardo Ramos denied the plea, ruling that creating an anonymous jury “is a drastic measure” that raises the prospect “of unfair prejudice to the defendant.”
While it is not unusual to have an anonymous jury in terrorism cases, the condition is typically reserved for suspects charged with violent crimes, such as the 2014 trial for the son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith. In this case, el Gammal is on trial for aiding and abetting ISIS. He allegedly assisted Samy el-Goarany, a 24-year-old Baruch College student, to travel to Syria to fight for the terrorist group.
The ISIS fighter will not be available on trial, as he died in Syria last year, but his father is expected to testify. In the trial, the prosecution will likely use el Gammal’s Facebook and Twitter posts to demonstration that he was an ISIS sympathizer who also helped recruit el-Goarany. The defense is expected to bring in a video that el-Goarany made before he died, in which he brags that he arrived in Syria without help from anybody.
On Monday, the selected jurors were asked if they had any “feelings” about Islam that may affect their capacity to serve impartially. They were also queried about their own travels to Syria, Turkey or Egypt.
By Benyamin Davidsons