The only American citizen who successfully joined ISIS was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Mohamad Khweis, 27, the only American citizen to be convicted of successfully joining the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group overseas, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Friday.
Khweis, from Alexandria, Virginia, was convicted on terrorism charges earlier this year. Khweis traveled to Iraq and Syria in December 2015, and even obtained an official ISIS membership card.
He found life there distasteful and escaped after a few months. He surrendered in northern Iraq to Kurdish forces, who broadcast his capture around the world.
Khweis was born in the US. His mother is Iraqi born, while his father claims to be Palestinian.
The nature of Khweis’ crime merited a strong sentence, said prosecutor Dennis Fitzpatrick, who argued for 35 years in prison.
“This defendant executed his plan to perfection. He got into the Islamic State. He was in their machinery. He was providing himself and his services to the organization,” Fitzpatrick said.
Once he made it to the ISIS territory in late 2015, he “became the consummate utility player for the Islamic State,” said prosecutor Raj Parekh. “When ISIS needed his blood, he allowed them to draw it. When ISIS needed him to cook and clean for wounded soldiers, Mohamad Khweis multitasked and filled that role as well.”
His lawyers said he never took up arms on ISIS’ behalf.
“While he was there, he did not fight. He did not do harm to another human being,” defense attorney John Zwerling said.
“He provided valuable, actionable intelligence,” Zwerling said. “And the government has given him zero credit for any of it.”
Zwerling and defense attorney Jessica Carmichael argued for a five-year sentence.
In a letter to the court, Khweis apologized for his actions and said that when he arrived in Syria “reality hit me. I couldn’t believe what I had done and where I was at. I hated myself for making the worst decision I ever made in my life.”
Khweis’ motivations for joining ISIS remain a mystery. He testified that he was curious about what life was like in the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate, but even his own attorneys acknowledged that Khweis’ testimony was riddled with lies.
“The record is void of what motivated him, what got him to go,” Zwerling said.
Khweis grew up in a middle-class neighborhood in Fairfax County. He grew up as a Muslim, but was not particularly religious. “There is no event, no instigator, no friend … no suicidal ideation that radicalized you,” Judge Liam O’Grady said before imposing his sentence, “but there is no question you did radicalize.”
More than 100 people in the US have been charged with trying to help ISIS or trying to join it.
The vast majority of those charged in the US with ISIS-related terrorism offenses were caught after their failed plots were exposed.
By: AP and World Israel News Staff