NEW YORK (AP) — The brother of a New Yorker who joined the Islamic State group and died testified Tuesday at the terrorism trial of an Arizona man, saying he lied to his parents and the FBI in the days after his brother left for Syria, where he was eventually killed.
Tarek el-Goarany, 24, told a Manhattan federal court jury that he and a cousin were the only family members to know when his brother, Samy, flew to Jordan in late January 2015 so he could enter Syria and join the Islamic State.
"I was scared of the outcome of what would happen to my family and myself if the FBI knew that I knew Samy was planning to join the Islamic State," he said.
El-Goarany was called by federal prosecutors to testify in the trial of Ahmed Mohammed el-Gammal, a suburban Phoenix resident charged with supporting the Islamic State by helping Samy el-Goarany reach Syria and join the militant group. Prosecutors said Samy el-Goarany was killed there in 2015 at age 24.
Tarek el-Goarany said his brother told him that el-Gammal helped him, but there was almost no other testimony about the defendant Tuesday.
Tarek el-Goarany said he knew his brother was going to Syria and communicated with him more frequently than any other family members while he went through Islamic State group training. He acknowledged his brother referred to Western civilization as a depressing "cesspool" in communications online with him.
Under cross-examination by el-Gammal's lawyer, Sabrina Shroff, Tarek el-Goarany said he was first interviewed by the FBI in early February 2015 when his parents contacted the agency to help them find their son.
He said he did not begin to tell the truth to federal agents until May 2015, when the FBI wanted to know why his father had traveled to Turkey.
"He told me he wanted to retrace Samy's steps and find him," Tarek el-Goarany said as he recalled what his father told him.
Referencing notes of Tarek el-Goarany's interviews with federal agents, Shroff asked him if he remembered telling the FBI that his brother went to Syria for reasons including some that were personal, some girl-related and others relating to his concern for Islamic practices.
"There were many issues," said Tarek el-Goarany, who admitted he was testifying as part of deal with prosecutors that will spare him from facing criminal charges as long as he tells the truth.