NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Three men accused of plotting to travel overseas to join ISIS have pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges.
The suspects — Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, Akhror Saidakhmetov and Abror Habibov — appeared in federal court in Brooklyn on Friday. Habibov was arrested in Florida last month and extradited to New York earlier this week.
Back in the summer of 2014, Juraboev, 24, and Saidakhmetov, 19, had expressed support online for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in Iraq in Syria, authorities said.
They went on to devise a plan to travel to Turkey and then Syria to wage jihad, authorities said.
They allegedly bought tickets to Turkey separately at a travel agency. Habibov, 30, was accused of financing the travel.
According to the complaint, Juraboev posted the following message on an Uzbek website.
“Greetings! We too wanted to pledge our allegiance and commit ourselves while not present there. I am in USA now but we don’t have any arms. But is it possible to commit ourselves as dedicated martyrs anyway while here? What I’m saying is, to shoot Obama then get shot ourselves, will it do? That will strike fear in the hearts of infidels.”
Federal agents became aware of the message and tracked the IP address back to Juraboev’s Brooklyn home. When confronted by agents, Juraboev said he wanted to travel to Syria to fight with ISIS or attack Obama if he could, according to authorities.
Juraboev later said he didn’t have the means or plan to attack Obama, according to authorities.
Authorities said Juraboev also was willing to plant a bomb at Coney Island if ordered to do so.
WEB EXTRA: Read the complaint (.pdf)
The feds had arranged for a confidential informer to befriend the young men, and court documents said the informant recorded Saidakhmetov making a threat against law enforcement.
Saidakhmetov allegedly plotted to buy a machine gun and kill police officers and FBI agents if he was unable to join ISIS in Syria, authorities said.
“I will just go and buy a machine gun, AK-47, go out and shoot all police,” Saidakhmetov said, according to the complaint. “We will go and purchase one handgun, then go shoot one police officer. Boom. Then, we will take his gun, bullets and a bulletproof vest… then we will do the same with a couple of others. Then we will go to the FBI headquarters, kill the FBI people.”
The informant kept tabs on Juraboev and Saidakhmetov as they visited the travel agency and bought the tickets to Istanbul, authorities said.
The FBI said it used both wiretaps and the informant to follow the suspects, once they had made their intentions clear on the Internet.
Saidakhmetov’s defense attorney, Adam Perlmutter, questioned authorities’ version of events.
“We know from other cases that you know, informants are enormously manipulative. And these are snippets of conversations that are in the complaint,” Perlmutter previously said. “We do not know the context.”
In online conversations with an Iraqi man who administrates a website sympathetic to ISIS, Juraboev was allegedly encouraged to travel abroad to join the fight.
Juraboev and Saidakhmetov had numerous discussions on the logistics of traveling to Turkey and getting across the Syrian border, according to the complaint.
As WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported, Saidakhmetov reportedly told the informant in the case that the only obstacle to his travel was his mother, who suspected what he was up to and had taken his passport.
“Don’t worry about the [transportation] fare and the expenses needed for going there,” Habibov allegedly told Saidakhmetov. “I promised you that we’ll do it. If you say you need to buy your ticket, then I’ll deposit cash into your account.”
Each man faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.