A U.S. citizen accused of becoming a sniper for the Islamic State group has made his lawyer enter a not guilty plea for him in his terrorism case.
Defense attorney Susan Kellman said after the plea on Wednesday in New York City that Ruslan Maratovich Asainov refused to do it himself because he won't acknowledge the American legal system.
The Kazakhstan-born Asainov was ordered held under tight security after prosecutors told a federal judge that he considers himself an Islamic State citizen and remains eager to fight for it.
Prosecutors say he lived in Brooklyn before traveling to Istanbul in 2013 and making his way into Syria, where he joined the militant organization.
Authorities announced in July that U.S.-backed forces in Syria had captured the 43-year-old defendant.
Asainov lived in Bay Ridge for 15 years, from the late 1990s until he allegedly booked a one-way flight out of JFK to join ISIS in 2013. He faces charges of attempting to provide material support, including training, services and personnel to a designated foreign terrorist group.
According to a criminal complaint, Asainov allegedly traveled to Turkey — a common transit point to get into Syria — in 2013 and joined ISIS. First he allegedly became a sniper for the terror group, then rose to the rank of "emir," in charge of training other ISIS members in weapons use.
He also allegedly tried to recruit another person to travel from the United States to Syria to fight for ISIS — and offered a job, housing, food and a $50 stipend per month. "Even the grandmothers are coming," he allegedly told an informant in an effort to get him to bring his entire family overseas.
Asainov was detained in Syria and later transferred to the FBI, which brought him back to New York City.
This isn't the first time the defendant has not respected the court's wishes. On multiple occasions in his July hearing, Asainov only shook his head when asked a question by the judge, who would tell him to answer out loud. When asked why he wouldn't speak, defense attorney Susan Kellman said her client "answers to a higher authority," clarifying after that referred to Allah.