An ISIS terrorist who died 15 months ago said in a video played in a federal courtroom Wednesday that the man on trial for helping him to get to Syria did not recruit him.
Samy El-Goarany of Middletown, New York said in the September 2015 video that he went to Syria of his own volition. In November 2015, he was killed fighting for the so-called Islamic State. The video had previously been referred to in court filings, but was shown for the first time on Wednesday.
Ahmed Mohammed El-Gammal, also known as Jammie, is on trial for allegedly helping Samy get to Syria. But communications between the two men were sporadic and coded, and often already deleted, leaving prosecutors struggling to prove that El-Gammal knowingly helped Samy join ISIS. El-Gammal’s defense attorneys insist he was primarily a supporter of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.
“I didn’t come to this decision with anybody’s influence or anybody's recruitment,” Samy said. “And nobody helped me along the way to get here—including Ahmed Mohammed El Gammal, in America."
The short video was a last-ditch attempt by Samy before his death to exonerate his American acquaintance. El-Gammal was arrested that a month before the video was made for allegedly introducing Samy to an Egyptian friend who then supposedly helped Samy join the Islamic State. That man, an Egyptian citizen currently residing in Turkey, has not been charged.
Samy's family initially told multiple lies to cover up his disappearance. His brother withheld information on his travels from his parents, and both the father and Tarek lied to the FBI. They also lied about his manner and cause of death to friends and community members. But the family has signed non-prosecution agreements with the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Facebook exchanges also presented in court on Wednesday show how Samy found out about El-Gammal’s arrest, and Aboualala's attempts to convince him to film a video. He initially believed it was his father, Mohamed, who had directed investigators to El-Gammal. Sammy did not speak or understand Arabic, despite growing up with an Egyptian father, and Aboualala does not speak English, so the exchanges are in broken English.
“You cause a big problem for Ahmed,” Aboualala told Samy.
“Allah will protect him from the tyrants of America,” Samy told Aboualala in the Facebook messages.
Aboualala later asked Samy to film a video stating that El-Gammal did not help him join ISIS. At one point, Aboualala even claimed that El-Gammal's defense team had asked for such a video from Samy.
But Judge Edgardo Ramos told jurors that it is “not in dispute” that the defense team made no such request.
Samy did eventually film a video, which was later obtained by the FBI from social media.
Samy’s brother, Tarek El-Goarany, also finished testifying on Wednesday. He said Samy told him that El-Gammal helped him “only in the most general sense.”
Tarek, who knew about his brother’s plans and went with him to purchase airline tickets, will not be charged.