The Huntsville man accused of terrorism charges pleaded guilty in federal court on Thursday.
Aziz Sayyed, 23, withdrew his original not guilty plea. He instead pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.
Sentencing is scheduled for June 20. Both parties have agreed to 15 years in prison.
“The successful resolution of this case can be entirely attributed to the robust cooperation between local, state and federal members of law enforcement,” said U.S. attorney Jay E. Town. “The Madison County District Attorney’s Office, HPD, UAHPD, and especially the FBI played key, complimentary roles in this investigation and all contributed significantly in bringing Aziz Sayyed to justice. The National Security Division of the Department of Justice also played an important role in the investigation and prosecution of Sayyed. Moreover, Sayyed was brought to our attention because citizens saw something, so they said something. If we are to keep our cities safe, no matter the type of suspicious activity, our community must play an active role."
Sayyed had two court proceedings Thursday morning. The first court proceeding was on information rather than an indictment and to make sure that he understood his rights and the transition from making a not guilty plea to a guilty plea.
The second court proceeding was so that the judge could grant his request of a not guilty plea to a guilty plea.
Huntsville Police and the FBI arrested Sayyed in June 2017 at the intersection of Church Street and Clinton Avenue in downtown Huntsville.
According to federal court documents, Sayyed obtained and viewed ISIS propaganda videos depicting ISIS forces committing bombings, executions, beheadings and other acts. Federal agents say Sayyed shared these videos.
The court documents state Sayyed stated ISIS was on the right path and he displayed an ISIS flag.
According to federal court information, Sayyed purchased sulfuric acid, hydrogen peroxide, and acetone from stores in Huntsville. It is believed he learned to make an explosive called a triacetone triperoxide (TATP) to execute attacks on police stations.
In the days before his arrest, investigators say Sayyed met with someone he believed to be a member of ISIS. Investigators say he offered his services to ISIS.
Sayyed is currently in the Metro Jail. He is expected to appear in Federal Court for a consent hearing March 8 and will be arraigned March 15.
It is unclear how this plea will impact Sayyed’s charges in Madison County.
Sayyed's attorney, Bruce Gardner, believes by watching videos from ISIS it transfigured him from a college student to someone who came close to going over the edge to the terrorist side.
“He is young, he is immature and very impressionable, and I think to this young man from watching ISIS propaganda video and stuff like that led him down this path, plus he had some friends who were obviously interested in it as well,” said Gardner.
“He violated the law, yes. He is going to be punished, yes. In my heart of hearts, don't actually believe that he would have followed through with bombing an installation. However, there was considerable talk about that and non-civilian targets that you've heard about like police stations and Redstone Arsenal and things like that nature. While he hasn't apologized to me, he will certainly be apologizing in front of a judge," Gardner said.
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