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Accused ISIS recruiter’s lawyer plans to argue for bail

Arafat M. Nagi, accused of recruiting for ISIS and planning to fight for the terrorist group, should be released on bail, his assigned counsel intends to argue at a detention hearing in U.S. District Court Friday morning.

“He is not a flight risk or a threat to the community,” defense attorney Jeremy D. Schwartz said.

Schwartz said none of the military and combat gear Nagi allegedly purchased – including night goggles, body armor and a “military style knife” – is illegal.

“It is all eBay purchases. This isn’t a Silk-Road type of Internet site where illegal purchases are anonymously made,” Schwartz said.

Of his plans to seek bail, Schwartz said, “I am working with his family to see what they might come up with and what conditions might satisfy the judge.”

Schwartz also questioned the motives of the two unnamed individuals in the federal criminal complaint who assisted the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office in building a case against his client over the past year.

One, described as “a person previously convicted of terrorism offenses,” told investigators that Nagi, 44, frequently talked about jihad to people in the Lackawanna community and commonly engaged in “verbal altercations” over his violent beliefs.

The other person told FBI agents that Nagi had confided in him his suspicion that he was being followed by an intelligence agency during one of his two previous visits to Turkey and destroyed a card in his phone so that his contacts could not be traced.

“In general terms, I am very skeptical when I see confidential sources in a complaint because I don’t know what type of motivations they may have or how credible they are,” Schwartz said. “It happens more often than not that confidential informants are speaking for a benefit.”

In announcing Nagi’s arrest Wednesday, U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. and FBI Special Agent Steven L. Lanser, who heads terrorism investigations in the agency’s Buffalo office, credited the cooperation of the Lackawanna Yemeni community and its desire to stop individuals who may be planning violence.

Authorities refused to identify the cooperating individuals, but if Nagi’s case goes to trial, and the individuals are called to testify, their identities would be a matter of public record, Schwartz said.

The FBI investigation also revealed that Nagi posted photos on social media supporting members of ISIS and endorsed beheadings and other acts of violence committed by members of the group.

At his arraignment Wednesday, Nagi told U.S. District Magistrate Hugh B. Scott that he has not worked since 2009, when he was injured, and described himself as disabled.

Asked what his client’s reaction was to the felony charges of providing material support and resources to ISIS, Schwartz said, “He’s reacting like a normal person who is facing serious charges. He’s taking them seriously. We are certainly denying the charges.”

Are local police concerned if bail is granted to Nagi?

Not necessarily.

Lackawanna Police Chief James L. Michel Jr., when contacted, said it is his understanding that federal authorities did not believe Nagi was planning any type of violent act in Lackawanna. But given that Nagi was allegedly preparing to travel to the Middle East, the chief said he might represent a risk of failing to appear at future court proceedings if he is released on bail.

email: lmichel@buffnews.com