Wesam El-Hanafi, 33, an Egyptian-American computer engineer raised in Bath Beach, had traveled to Yemen to meet with Al Qaeda leaders, giving them the money and teaching them how to send encrypted communications, federal prosecutors said.
Ambitious for a leadership role in Al Qaeda, El-Hanafi apparently brought his radical beliefs back to Brooklyn where he tried to form a "mini-Al Qaeda cell," recruiting co-defendant Sabirhan Hasanoff, prosecutors charged.
During his appearance in Manhattan Federal Court, El-Hanafi, a Baruch College graduate, sat stone-faced, at times shaking his head as prosecutors detailed the terror charges against him.
"Not guilty your honor," were his only words.
El-Hanafi and Hasanoff, 34, who also had lived in Brooklyn, were arrested last month in Dubai and sent back to the U.S. for trial. Prosecutors said the pair had purchased seven Casio digital watches and a timing device for Al Qaeda to use in making explosives.
They also said El Hanafi had pledged support for Al Qaeda and volunteered to fight with them in Iraq and Afghanistan, although he hadn't traveled there.
In their failed bid for bail, defense lawyers stressed El Hanafi's longtime roots in Brooklyn and portrayed him as a steady family man, the father of three children.
His attorneys said that he didn't try to flee while overseas, where he learned that he was on the 'no fly list'. Instead, they said he tried to clear his name and rejoin his family in Brooklyn.
Hasanoff, an accountant with dual American and Australian citizenship, pleaded not guilty at his appearance in Mahattan Federal Court last week. He's also a Baruch College graduate and had worked in a Dubai holding company for the last 10 months.