NEW YORK – A Jamaican cleric accused of recruiting support for the Islamic State group was convicted Thursday of state terrorism charges after being extradited to New York City following an undercover New York Police Department sting that went international.
Abdullah el-Faisal is due to be sentenced next month after his conviction in state Supreme Court in Manhattan on counts including soliciting or providing support for an act of terrorism, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office said.
Bragg's office said it was the first-ever state-level trial on terrorism charges. New York's laws on terrorism were passed in the aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
El-Faisal, who had previously served prison time in Britain after being convicted of incitement and stirring racial hatred and had also been deported from Kenya, was arrested in his native Jamaica in 2017 and extradited to New York City in 2020.
Authorities said that beginning in 2016, an undercover officer in New York City posed as a would-be jihadist and started communicating with the cleric, who was living in Jamaica.
Prosecutors said el-Faisal, whom they described as highly influential, had supported the Islamic State organization for several years, encouraging violent acts in online lectures and calling for the creation of an Islamic caliphate.
Authorities said the interaction with the undercover officer, who ended up going overseas as part of the operation, led to the cleric giving out contact information for someone in Syria who would act as a conduit for connecting with the Islamic State. They said he also engaged in activities like trying to facilitate a marriage between the officer and a member of the militant group.
Michael Fineman, an attorney for el-Faisal, said he was “disappointed" by the conviction and planned to appeal. He said the cleric never actually agreed to help the officer travel to territory controlled by the group.
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.