NEW YORK (AP) — A cleric arrested in his native Jamaica and extradited to New York to face state terrorism charges on accusations of recruiting support for the Islamic State group was sentenced Thursday to 18 years in prison.
Abdullah el-Faisal was convicted in January in state Supreme Court in Manhattan on counts including soliciting or providing support for an act of terrorism.
The state law he was prosecuted under was put in place after the September 11, 2001, attacks, and prosecutors said his case was the first state-level trial on terrorism charges.
El-Faisal was extradited to New York City in 2020 after being arrested in Jamaica in 2017. Beginning in 2016, authorities said an undercover officer in New York City posed as a would-be jihadist and started communicating with the cleric.
The cleric was accused of giving out information to help the officer ultimately connect with the Islamic State group, as well as trying to do things like act as a conduit for a marriage between the officer and a member of the militant group.
Prosecutors said el-Faisal had supported the Islamic State organisation for several years. They said he was very influential, using online lectures to encourage violent acts and advocating for an Islamic caliphate.
He had previously served prison time in Britain after being convicted of incitement and stirring racial hatred and had also been deported from Kenya.
“Shaikh Faisal’s advocacy, recruitment and provision of material support to ISIS helped the terrorist organisation perform horrific acts, including the murder and kidnapping of innocent people,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L Bragg, Jr said in a statement announcing the sentence.
An attempt to leave a message for Michael Fineman, the cleric’s attorney, was unsuccessful.
Federal officials have said el-Faisal’s sermons influenced people such as Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a bomb in Times Square in 2010, and Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called underwear bomber who attempted to blow up a transatlantic flight on Christmas Day 2009.