Yet another Brooklyn man has been charged in an ISIS recruitment plot that was thwarted last February, federal prosecutors announced yesterday. Azizjon Rakhmatov, a 28-year-old Uzbek citizen, is charged with conspiring and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State.
Rakhmatov now joins four others—Akhror Saidakhmetov, Abror Habibov, Dilkhayot Kasimov, and Akmal Zakirov—who were arrested last year and charged with conspiracy after the feds said that the latter three were funding Saidakhmetov's trip to Syria to join ISIS. Their cases are still pending. A fifth defendant, Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, pleaded guilty last summer after he was accused of planning to also go to Syria to fight for the Islamic State.
Rakhmatov was arrested earlier this week after authorities discovered electronic correspondence between him and Habibov, in which they discussed their plot. He remains in custody, and faces up to 50 years in prison if convicted.
The whole scheme came to the attention of the feds when Juraboev posted to a pro-ISIS Uzbek-language website, offering to martyr himself on U.S. soil in ISIS's name. He was subsequently arrested, along with Saidakhmetov and Habibov, last February, when Saidakhmetov was about to board a flight to Istanbul (and later connect to Syria) at JFK airport. Kasimov was charged last April, after he allegedly admitted to working with Habibov to fund Saidakhmetov's trip, and Zakirov was arrested on similar charges in June.
Rakhmatov allegedly worked with Habibov to cover Saidakhmetov's travel expenses, and conspired to purchase a firearm for him once he arrived in Syria. Prosecutors say that in the days before Saidakhmetov's flight, he transferred $2,400 into Zakirov's bank account, which is believed to have been used as a fund for Saidakhmetov's trip.
Immediately following the first three arrests in this case, it was revealed that an FBI informant was instrumental in building the case against them, apparently befriending them at a Brooklyn mosque and encouraging them to realize their fantasies of fighting for the Islamic State.
Following their arrests, Saidakhmetov's lawyer, Adam Perlmutter, told the New York Times that this case "highlights everything that is wrong in how the Justice Department approaches these cases...[Saidakhmetov] was worked over extensively by a confidential informant."
In a 2011 Mother Jones investigation into the use of paid confidential informants, a lawyer for a defendant in a similar case in Boston argued that in many cases "defendants would not have done anything if not kicked in the ass by government agents...They're creating crimes to solve crimes so they can claim a victory in the war on terror."
Since 2014, federal prosecutors have charged at least 85 people with crimes related to ISIS, Reuters reports. Relatedly, an ISIS-related hacking group recently released a "hit list" with the names of 3,000 New Yorkers, prompting the FBI to make in-person visits to those whose names are on the list and warn them to "be on the alert for any weird activity."