Washington- A jury in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, has convicted Mohamad Jamal Khweis of providing material support to ISIS.
Khweis, 27, claimed however that he traveled to Iraq and Syria to monitor the activities of the terrorist organization and not to fight alongside the group.
He took the unusual step of testifying on his own behalf at the trial, telling jurors he just wanted to see for himself what the militant group was like.
He faces a sentence of five years to life in prison when he is sentenced on Oct. 13.
His lawyer said the facts he went to Syria and Iraq and got an ISIS membership card don’t automatically make him a terrorist.
Khweis was detained by Kurdish peshmerga forces in northern Iraq in March 2016 and turned over to US authorities.
Harrison Weinhold, 27, of Alexandria, told the Washington Post at the time that he attended Fairfax County’s Mark Twain Middle School with Khweis and that the two graduated from Edison High School in 2007. Weinhold said he instantly recognized Khweis in pictures and videos broadcast by news outlets.
“I’m like, ‘I can’t even comprehend what I’m looking at right now,’ ” Weinhold said. “It could not have been a more normal guy.”
Weinhold said Khweis is the soft-spoken son of a limo driver and a cosmetologist and was known to wear designer shoes. Although some people in the school were devout Muslims, Khweis was not one of them, Weinhold said.
The Associated Press also said at the time that Khweis told the Peshmerga forces that he had originally traveled through Turkey to reach ISIS-held territory.
He was carrying with him a large amount of cash and several forms of identification, including a driver’s license from Virginia.
According to court documents, after reaching Turkey last year, Khweis used social media accounts to reach out to people he thought could help smuggle him across the border to Syria.
Finally, in late December, he got the call: He should leave his hotel room and enter a waiting taxi if he wanted to join. He did, and was smuggled across the border.
At one point, he received text orders to get out of the car and alternately walk and run across the border territory, taking care to avoid land mines.
He was processed by ISIS during a short stay in the Syrian city of Raqqa. The processing was formal, with blood tests, intake forms, issuance of the ID card and on whether he was willing to serve as a suicide bomber.
During the next three months, he bounced among several safehouses in Syria and Iraq.