UH student sentenced after helping ISIS
According to recent reporting from the Houston Chronicle, a 23-year-old UH mechanical engineering student was sentenced Monday to 18 months in prison followed by five years of supervision after pleading guilty to providing material support for ISIS.
Asher Abid Khan, a U.S. citizen, is the sixth person in Texas to plead guilty to attempting to provide support for ISIS. His sentence by U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes shocked federal authorities, as they recommended more than 20 years in prison and a lifetime of supervision.
FBI officials said Khan caught attention in 2014 while he was living in Australia. An agent testified that Khan sent a Facebook friend request to Sixto Ramiro Garcia, a friend and former classmate from Klein Oak High School in Spring. Khan told Garcia he wanted to join ISIS, and they began plans to travel to Turkey then slip into Syria to fight with the jihadists.
The two talked about their desire to dedicate their lives to something bigger than themselves. A few weeks later, Khan told an alleged ISIS recruiter that he wanted to “die as a shahid,” or martyr.
Khan told Hughes that he knew what ISIS was doing, but he “stupidly bought into their propaganda.” He said he now completely disagrees with all ISIS stands for.
Federal officials said Khan and Garcia made plans to meet in Turkey near the Syrian border. Garcia departed on Feb. 24, 2014, and Khan left for Istanbul the next day with plans to continue on to Syria.
However, Khan’s trip was cut short after his family lied about his mother being in intensive care, and he returned to Houston. Garcia made it to Syria and sent panicked messages to Khan after his failure to show up.
After arriving in Houston, Khan connected Garcia to an ISIS recruiter. Garcia made it to ISIS boot camp by Aug. 2014, and on Dec. 25 of that year, Garcia’s mother learned by a Facebook notification that her son had died fighting.
“I am deeply sorry that things happened the way that they did and for whatever I may have done to facilitate it,” Khan told Garcia’s mother. “I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”
Hughes decided Khan had potential for rehabilitation and warned him against acting on impulsive behaviors. Defense attorney David Adler said that since coming back to Houston, Khan had dedicated himself to his job, schoolwork and family. He delivered pizza, resumed work at a mosque school and enrolled at UH in 2015.
“When I read my old text messages I can’t believe how stupid and ignorant I was,” Khan told Hughes.
Hughes allowed Khan to remain on bond until summoned by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, although prosecutors asked that he be taken into custody.