A Sacramento college student who’s been held on terrorism-related charges since January was accused by a grand jury in Chicago on Thursday of traveling to Syria to fight alongside terrorist organizations.
Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, 23, a student at American River College, was indicted by a grand jury in Chicago on a charge of trying to provide “material support and resources” to terrorists overseas.
Al-Jayab flew from Chicago to Turkey and then Syria in November 2013 in order to “take up arms with terrorists” in Syria, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago. During his time overseas, he reported on social media that he was “fighting with terrorist organizations,” the prosecutors said. Al-Jayab had been living in Milwaukee when he boarded the flight from Chicago.
The new charges, filed in a terse, one-paragraph statement from the grand jury, take the case against Al-Jayab a significant step further, exposing him to a possible prison term of up to 15 years. The indictment provides no detail about his alleged activities in Syria.
Al-Jayab was arrested in Sacramento in January as part of a multicity sweep and accused of making false statements to immigration officers about his overseas travels. He pleaded not guilty to that charge, which carries a maximum penalty of eight years in prison, and remains in custody in Sacramento following his appearance Jan. 8 in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.
According to prosecutors in Sacramento, Al-Jayab, a Palestinian born in Iraq who came to the United States in 2012, visited Syria in November 2013. When questioned by agents from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in October 2014 about his travels, he claimed he never supported terrorist groups and denied helping kill anyone. He also left out that he had been in Syria, telling agents only that he visited Turkey to see his grandmother. All of those statements were false, according to the Sacramento indictment.
He returned to the U.S. in January 2014. Settling in Sacramento, he enrolled at American River College in late 2015 as a computer science major, according to school officials.
His court-appointed lawyer in Sacramento, Benjamin Galloway, told The Sacramento Bee that the charges filed in Chicago came as no surprise but represent “no new criminal conduct.” Prosecutors in Illinois handled the latest charges because Al-Jayab flew from O’Hare International Airport.
“The charge stems from the same brief overseas trip more than two years ago,” Galloway said. “As with the case in Sacramento, there is no allegation that Mr. Al-Jayab did anything to threaten or harm Americans or American interests. The thrust of the government’s allegation is that Mr. Al-Jayab fought against the Assad regime, which our own government actively opposes, but did so by taking up arms with the wrong people.”
Al-Jayab’s next scheduled court appearance in Sacramento is May 12, although at some point he is expected to be transferred to Chicago to be arraigned on the new charges.
His younger brother, Samer Mohammed Al-Jayab, was arrested in January on an unrelated charge involving the alleged possession of stolen property.