Social media posts could be key at terrorism trial in Texas

AP News
|
Posted: Aug 13, 2016 3:38 PM

HOUSTON (AP) — A trove of social media communications, including Facebook posts, will be used to prove a Houston-area man sought to join and support the Islamic State group, according to authorities.

Asher Khan, who faces trial in September, is accused of six counts of conspiring to provide material support to a known terrorist organization, attempting to provide support and conspiring to commit murder abroad.

Kahn, 21, who was charged in the fall, faces up to life in prison if convicted. The University of Houston student is free on bail.

Authorities say experts who could testify at his trial might delve into Facebook messenger sessions, photos and efforts by the Islamic State to recruit foreign fighters online, the Houston Chronicle (http://bit.ly/2bptr9Y ) reported.

Investigators contend that Khan, a U.S. citizen, traveled from Australia to Turkey in February 2014 as part of a plan to join the Islamic State in Syria. But once he got to Turkey, Khan allegedly had a change of heart and returned to his home in suburban Houston.

He was supposed to rendezvous in Turkey with Sixto Garcia, of McAllen, who authorities said went on to join the group and was killed in fighting later that year.

According to court documents, investigators allege that in one message on Facebook, Khan asked, "I'd like to join ISIS. Can you help me?"

Prosecutors say that during the trial, a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst will focus on photographs recovered from social media that purportedly show Garcia and Mohamed Zuhbi, an alleged recruiter who remains a fugitive in the case.

Khan's lawyer, Thomas Berg, says the young man went online to try to convince a fellow Texas man not to join the Islamic State.

"He was a 19-year-old kid who had a stupid idea, didn't follow through with it and came home," Berg said.

The case reflects a growing use of social media by authorities to prosecute U.S. citizens suspected of trying to aid terrorists.

Over the past two years, the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Forces have made arrests in at least 19 states, including four cases in Spring, Houston, Dallas and Austin.

___

Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com