SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - One of two Iraqi-born men arrested last week on federal terrorism-related charges was indicted by a federal grand jury in Sacramento on Thursday for lying about traveling to Syria and assisting a militant group.
Aws Mohammed Younis al-Jayab, 23, who was arrested in Sacramento, is accused of making a false statement when he said he had gone to Turkey to visit his grandmother in late 2013 and 2014. In the indictment released on Thursday, prosecutors said that after going to Turkey, al-Jayab went to Syria and became a member of a “rebel group, militia or insurgent organization.”
Al-Jayab was one of two men from the Middle East who came to the United States as refugees and were arrested on federal terrorism charges last week in California and Texas of supporting Islamist militant groups.
Both men are Palestinians born in Iraq. The man arrested in Houston, Omar Faraj Saeed Al-Hardan, entered the United States as an Iraqi refugee in November 2009, according to a court document.
Al-Jayab, 23, came to the United States in 2012 as a refugee from Syria, court documents said.
Al-Jayab’s lawyer, Ben Galloway, said the community college student planned to plead not guilty in a federal arraignment proceeding set for Jan. 22.
“The allegedly false statements relate exclusively to a brief trip overseas two years ago,” Galloway said.
Both the FBI and Galloway said al-Jayab was not believed to have plotted any attack against the United States.
The indictment, which charges al-Jayab with a single count of making a false statement involving international terrorism, lists several instances in which he allegedly lied about his trip and ties to militant organizations.
It accuses al-Jayab, who was arrested last week, of also lying about providing material support to the group, which was not named, and assisting in a group where people used or threatened to use weapons against others.
Al-Jayab also gave false information about providing material support to a militant group and about having “called for, helped with or committed the killing of any person,” according to the indictment.
The indictment does not say why al-Jayab went to Syria, but an FBI affidavit filed last week alleged he communicated online with friends, family and associates while in the Middle East, telling some that he was fighting in Syria’s civil war.
If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Peter Cooney