NEW YORK (AP) — The father of a New Yorker who joined the Islamic State group told a jury on Thursday that he searched desperately for his son, following him to Turkey and meeting with one of his contacts before lying to the FBI about the trip.
Mohamed el-Goarany, testifying at the terrorism trial of an Arizona man, wept as he described his efforts to find his son Samy el-Goarany after the college student flew to Turkey in January 2015 and continued on to Syria to join the terrorist group. He said his son hid his intentions from his parents, saying he was going to his Queens apartment to spend time with school friends, but his mother suspected the worst after learning he was not there.
He said he found her crying, saying she believed their son had left and they would never see him again. The family was notified in November 2015 he had been killed.
"I lost my son," he said through tears. "Who's going to bring my son back?"
The federal courtroom drama capped several days of testimony by Samy el-Goarany's brother, mother and father. All three were called as government witnesses in the prosecution of Ahmed Mohammed el-Gammal, a suburban Phoenix man charged with providing material support for the Islamic State.
Prosecutors say el-Gammal provided a "launching pad" for Samy el-Goarany to join the Islamic State group in Syria, but a defense lawyer says he's being blamed as a scapegoat.
The el-Goarany family contacted the FBI days after their son left the country. Mohamed el-Goarany said he met with agents many times but became frustrated they would not commit to a trip to Turkey to learn more about what happened to his son. So he went there himself in May 2015, finding a man prosecutors say helped his son reach the Islamic State group.
He said his son called him the next morning and he learned that he was undergoing training with the Islamic State group.
On Wednesday, prosecutors introduced exhibits of online communications between el-Gammal and the contact in Turkey after the father asked to meet the man during his trip there.
The man said he planned to meet the father and el-Gammal warned him, "Don't ever, ever mention me or my name," according to a government exhibit of the internet correspondence.
Samy el-Goarany's mother, Teresa el-Goarany, testified Wednesday that she found proof in her son's backpack in November 2014 that he had gone to Turkey but he claimed when she confronted him that he did so only for humanitarian purposes.
Mohamed el-Goarany said his son's contact in Turkey called him after el-Gammal's arrest and "offered me a trade," meaning he'd help get his son back if he helped get el-Gammal out of jail.
The father, testifying under a non-prosecution agreement, said he lied to the FBI when agents met him at a New York airport after his return from Turkey in May 2015, telling agents his son was with the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria.
The father said he wanted to protect his son's name in case he returned.
"I didn't want him to be arrested as a terrorist man," he said.