MANILA — A Filipino and an American both face life imprisonment after being charged on Thursday in California of helping jihadists in killing Americans overseas.
The jury convicted 36-year-old American Sohiel Omar Kabir and 25-year-old Filipino Ralph de Leon following a six-week trial in the United States.
Both were charged with five counts of conspiracy for a plan to train as terrorists so they could stage an attack against the US military and allies.
Kabir was acquitted on one of the five counts, while De Leon was pardoned on two of the five counts.
De Leon was found guilty of conspiracy based on the fact that he is under al-Qaida and has pledged to undergo military-type of training in order to commit kidnapping, murder, or maiming overseas.
“This case shows that the appeal of extremist ideologies can reach from Afghanistan to America,” said US Attorney Stephanie Yonekura right after the trial held in Riverside County, east of Los Angeles.
The act demonstrated “the clear need for continued vigilance in rooting out homegrown violent extremists who plot terrorist acts both here and abroad.”
The defense lawyers of both Kabir and De Leon stated that their clients are only hapless pot smokers who talked a lot, but do not mean any harm to others.
Two years ago, De Leon and two others were arrested before going on a journey to meet Kabir in Afghanistan. Kabir, on the other hand, was caught in Kabul by US troops.
After the incident, federal agents started to track the group. One of them, Miguel Santana Vidriales, was caught in Mexico with a copy of a jihadist magazine.
Kabir will be sentenced on February 23, whereas De Leon will return to court on October 20.
FBI Los Angeles agent Bill Lewis said: “The threat posed to America’s security by individuals within the United States who support terrorists is very real,” said FBI Los Angeles agent Bill Lewis.
He added, “This case demonstrates the process by which individuals living in the United States were groomed and radicalized toward an extremist ideology and, ultimately, planned the murder of American and coalition forces.”
Both Kabir and De Leon from California will get life sentences as mandated by the US District Court.