Four men accused of plotting to send U.S. residents overseas to fight for the Islamic State group appeared in court together for the first time Wednesday to face federal terrorism charges.
Dilkhayot Kasimov, Abror Habibov, Akhror Saidakhmetov and Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev — all immigrants from the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan — entered not guilty pleas through their attorneys to a revised indictment filed this week that added Kasimov as a defendant. The three others were first charged last month.
None of the men spoke as they stood together in court other than to answer yes when a judge asked if they understood the charges. Habibov smiled and waved to a supporter in the gallery as he was led out of court.
The indictment accuses Kasimov of working closely with Habibov to raise $1,600 for Saidakhmetov to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State militant group. Saidakhmetov was carrying the cash when he was intercepted at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Feb. 25 trying to board a flight to Turkey, court papers say.
The fundraising was "tantamount to providing money to slaughter innocent victims," Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Solomon told the judge.
After being detained on immigration charges, Kasimov, 26, admitted he delivered the money to the 19-year-old Saidakhmetov and knew that the teenager "might be" traveling to Syria, court papers say. Agents also uncovered "electronic communications in which Kasimov encouraged others to participate in violent jihad," they said.
Prosecutors accused Juraboev of also trying to travel to Syria via Turkey to join ISIS.
Outside court, Saidakmetov's attorney, Adam Perlmutter, called his client an innocent "young kid" who never posed a threat. He called the case, which involved a confidential informant, one "in a long line of manufactured terrorism cases."
The cases based on the work of informants or undercover agents pretending to be co-conspirators create "an atmosphere of fear itself," Perlmutter said. "We should concentrate on real terrorism."
Attorneys for the other three defendants declined to comment.
The charges against the men come amid a spate of recent terrorism cases related to the Islamic State group's efforts to attract foreign fighters or encourage sympathizers to launch an attack in America. Last week, two women were arrested on charges that they sought to build a homemade bomb after embracing the radical views of groups like al-Qaida and the Islamic State.