Jamaica-born cleric Abdullah el-Faisal was sentenced in New York to 18 years in prison on Thursday (March 23) for recruiting support for the Islamic State terrorism group.
He was arrested in Jamaica in 2017 and extradited to New York in 2020, where he was convicted in January at the Supreme Court in Manhattan on several counts of terrorism including soliciting or providing support for an act of terrorism.
The state law el-Faisal was prosecuted under was put in place after the September 11, 2001 attacks with prosecutors declaring that his case was the first state-level trial on terrorism charges.
Federal prosecutors led evidence that in 2016 an undercover officer in New York City posed as a would-be jihadist and started communicating with the cleric. Evidence was presented that he gave out information to help the officer 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 also presented evidence that 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.
el-Faisal had previously served prison time in Britain after being convicted of incitement and stirring racial hatred and had also been deported from Kenya.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Junior said in a statement announcing the sentence say “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.”
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.