Chicago terror suspect asked about attacking non-Muslims before sting, FBI agent testifies

This undated file photo provided by the US Marshals office shows Chicago terrorism suspect Adel Daoud. (US Marshals office via AP, File)
Updated 30 April 2019

Chicago terror suspect asked about attacking non-Muslims before sting, FBI agent testifies

  • Daoud was arrested in 2012 after he pushed a button on a remote he believed would detonate a bomb outside a crowded bar
  • Defense attorneys say Daoud's case is an example of how the FBI often snares the psychologically vulnerable in such stings

CHICAGO: A multiday sentencing hearing began Monday in Chicago and focused on whether FBI agents manipulated a mentally fragile teenager to participate in a terrorist plot or whether he had long before shown an eagerness to kill.
Prosecutors called an FBI agent to the witness stand to tell Adel Daoud’s sentencing judge that Daoud posted social media comments inquiring about attacking non-Muslims more than a year before undercover agents ever engaged him as part of a sting.
Authorities arrested Daoud in late 2012 after he pushed a button on a remote he believed would detonate a 1,000-pound (454-kilogram) bomb outside a crowded Chicago bar. Prosecutors want a 40-year prison term for Daoud, who entered an Alford plea in November.
Defense attorneys say the now-25-year-old, who grew up in the Chicago suburb of Hillside, is a textbook example of how the agency often snares the psychologically vulnerable in such stings. They want US District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman to release him as soon as a mental health treatment plan can be developed for him.
The agent who took the stand first, Jeff Parsons, read postings Monday in which Daoud expressed admiration for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, described himself as an aspiring terrorist and even typed keywords like, “I am a terrorist” and “download terrorist magazine,” on search engines.
Defense attorney Thomas Durkin suggested during cross-examination later Monday that Daoud’s overt and clumsy online chat about being a terrorist should have been a strong sign he was no such thing.
“How many terrorists do you know who have literally proclaimed online that, ‘I am a terrorist?’” Durkin asked Parsons. The agent answered he hadn’t heard of others.
The agent said he saw nothing in Daoud’s postings indicating he suffered from mental illness. He said Daoud showed initiative, suggesting to undercover agents that fitting butcher knives to a truck and driving it into a crowd would be a way to kill many people at once.
Durkin mentioned another idea of Daoud’s — to stage attacks by deploying “flying cars.” He said that idea should have been one of many red flags.
“Did it ever occur to you ... that the person you were dealing with was unstable?” Durkin asked the agent.
“I didn’t see anything indicating he was mentally unstable,” Parsons answered.
The agent also read comments Daoud posted admitting he may not have the qualities for a militant, saying, “I got asthma and flat feet. ... And I have never even held a gun before.” He added: “I have a terrible case of procrastination and laziness.”
In 2016, Coleman temporarily deemed Daoud mentally unfit after ruling that he seemed sincere about assertions that Illuminati and “reptilian overlords” were out to get him.
On Tuesday, prosecutors intend to call an undercover agent who played a central role in the sting against Daoud. Prosecutors say the agent’s life would be in danger if his identity is revealed public, so he will either testify in a disguise or from behind a screen.


Leading Hong Kong activists charged for Tiananmen vigil gathering

Updated 6 min 22 sec ago

Leading Hong Kong activists charged for Tiananmen vigil gathering

  • Hong Kongers defied a ban on rallies to mark the June 4 anniversary of Beijing’s deadly 1989 crackdown
  • China’s leaders have rejected calls to give Hong Kongers universal suffrage

HONG KONG: Thirteen prominent Hong Kong democracy activists appeared in court on Monday charged with holding an unauthorized gathering to mark the Tiananmen Square crackdown, the latest in a string of prosecutions against protest leaders in the restless financial hub.
Last month tens of thousands of Hong Kongers defied a ban on rallies to mark the June 4 anniversary of Beijing’s deadly 1989 crackdown against students pushing for democracy.
The annual vigil has been held in Hong Kong for the last three decades and usually attracts huge crowds. It has taken on particular significance in recent years as the semi-autonomous city chafes under Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian rule.
This year’s vigil was banned for the first time with authorities citing coronavirus measures. At the time local transmission had largely been halted.
But thousands turned out to hold candles in their neighborhoods and in Victoria Park, the traditional site of the vigil.
Police later arrested 13 leading activists who appeared at the Victoria Park vigil.
All appeared in court on Monday to be formally charged with “inciting” an unlawful assembly, which carries up to five years in jail.
Among them are Jimmy Lai, the millionaire owner of the openly pro-democracy Apple newspaper, veteran democracy activists such as Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho as well as young campaigner Figo Chan.
When asked if he understood the charge, Lee invoked the hundreds who were killed by Chinese tanks and soldiers at Tiananmen.
“This is political persecution,” he said. “The real incitement is the massacre conducted by the Chinese Communist Party 31 years ago.”
Some of those charged on Monday — and many other leading democracy figures — face separate prosecutions related to last year’s huge and often violent pro-democracy protests.
China’s leaders have rejected calls to give Hong Kongers universal suffrage and portrayed the protests as a plot by foreigners to destabilize the motherland.
Earlier this month Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law aimed at stamping out the protests once and for all.
The law targets subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion, with sentences including life in prison.
But its broad phrasing — such as a ban on encouraging hatred toward China’s government — has sent fear rippling through a city used to being able to speak its mind.
Police have arrested people for possessing pro-independence or autonomy material, libraries and schools have pulled books, political parties have disbanded and one prominent opposition politician has fled.
The law bypassed Hong Kong’s legislature and its contents were kept secret until the moment it was enacted.
It empowered China’s security apparatus to set up shop openly in Hong Kong for the first time, while Beijing has also claimed jurisdiction for some serious national security cases — ending the legal firewall between the mainland the city’s independent judiciary.
China has also announced global jurisdiction to pursue national security crimes committed by anyone outside of Hong Kong and China, including foreigners.