Syracuse, NY – A Geddes man of Iraqi nationality was sentenced Friday to four years in federal prison for lying to immigration officials about his connection to an Iran-backed militia while applying for a green card, federal prosecutors said.
According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern Precinct of New York.
During his interview with immigration officials, Al Fawadi claimed he was threatened by Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), an Iran-backed Shia militia, according to the indictment. He told immigration authorities that he had refused to help kidnap Sunni Muslims and was now in imminent danger.
Al Fawadi obtained a green card through a refugee status application around January 2016, according to the indictment. His family settled in Geddes.
In 2017, Al Fawadi applied for full legal U.S. citizenship and was questioned by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service officials in Syracuse, according to the indictment. He again said he had no association with the militia. He also said he had never traveled outside of Iraq and Turkey.
It was later discovered that Al Fawadi traveled to Syria in 2013 to help the AAH, a group the US State Department has designated as a “foreign terrorist organization”, prosecutors said. He was helping them in their campaign to support the Syrian regime which had already killed 1,400 of its own citizens, federal prosecutors said.
Al Fawadi had denied any previous membership in the militia and lied about traveling through the Middle East region, federal prosecutors said.
Federal prosecutors alleged that Al Fawadi provided “material support to the militia.” They provided photos of Al Fawadi in a camouflage uniform alongside others believed to be involved with the Shia Muslim paramilitary group.
Al Fawadi claimed he was forcibly recruited by the group and never participated in combat or terrorist acts, according to a sentencing note submitted by the defense. His role was to provide food and supplies to the group, the memo says.
The prosecution also provided photos of a series of deceased individuals that were found on Al Fawadi’s phone, according to the sentencing memo. Al Fawadi said these photos were sent to him by a friend and he was not involved in the deaths of the people in the photos.
His defense attorneys said Al Fawadi chose to lie on his application for a green card and permanent residency for the safety of his family and not to obstruct justice, according to the memo.
The militia, whose name means the “League of the Righteous”, is one of the main militias operating in Iraq to advance Iran’s interests, according to Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. . It has existed since 2006.
Since then, he has carried out thousands of attacks on US and Iraqi forces, including rocket attacks on the US Embassy, and kidnappings of Westerners, according to the Institute for the Study of War. , a defense think tank.
After his four-year sentence, Al Fawadi will be deported from the United States without further immigration proceedings upon his release, federal prosecutors said.
“Mr. Al Fawadi lied to authorities to conceal his membership in a violent paramilitary group,” Janeen DiGuiseppi, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Albany Field Office said in a press release. The FBI’s top priority remains the protection of our national security, and we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure that dangerous individuals do not have the opportunity to compromise the safety of Americans.”
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