Extremist Islamic Web site founder admits to postings supporting terrorist attacks

October 30, 2013

A New Jersey man who prosecutors say used his Islamic Web site to advocate violence against those whose ideals he found offensive to his religion pleaded guilty Wednesday to using the Internet to put another in fear of death or injury, admitting that he posted material supportive of various terrorist attacks and hinted that his followers should target a Jewish organization in Brooklyn.

Yousef Mohamid al-Khattab, 45, an American-born man with dual citizenship in Israel, told a federal judge in Virginia that he wrote the posts “out of my stupidity.” Yet he vigorously disagreed with prosecutors’ assertion that he intended to incite violence.

“I never intended to physically hurt anybody,” Khattab said. “I think they could prove it, but that’s not my intention, Your Honor.”

Khattab, who court records show also used the names Joseph Cohen and Joseph Kaplan, spoke extensively during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. The former culinary student who has a son in New York and a wife in Morocco went through his plea agreement almost line by line, questioning portions, clarifying others and saying that he signed the document because it was “the best I think I’m going to get out of this.”

“I can’t agree with every law that I have to keep, but I have to keep the law,” he said.

Khattab admitted that he helped found the “Revolution Muslim” organization in 2007 and that he wrote offensive and incendiary posts on the group’s now-defunct Web site, RevolutionMuslim.com. In a November 2009 post, for example, Khattab referred to Nidal M. Hasan — an Army psychiatrist who opened fire on dozens of soldiers at Fort Hood, Tex., killing 13 — as an “officer and a gentleman” who “was injured while partaking in a preemptive attack,” court records show.

In a January 2009 post, he told viewers to seek out leaders of Jewish Federation chapters in the United States and “deal with them directly at their homes,” court records show.

In another post that year, Khattab, who lives in Atlantic City, added a photo of the Chabad Jewish organization headquarters in Brooklyn with a link to a map, court records show. He noted that Chabad’s main temple was always full at prayer times and wrote, “Make EVERY attempt to reach these people and teach them the message of Islam or leave them a message from Islam,” court records show.

After the New York City Police Department parked a vehicle in front of the building, Khattab posted a slide show that alternated images of the police protection, a blood-stained Hebrew prayer book and dead children, court records show.

Khattab is among those charged in a crackdown against U.S. men whom federal prosecutors say tried to inspire terrorists to commit violence in the name of Islam. Jesse C. Morton, a co-founder of the Revolution Muslim organization, was sentenced last year to 111 / 2 years in prison after he admitted that he encouraged extremists to attack the writers of the “South Park” animated TV show because an episode featured the prophet Muhammad in a bear suit. Another man, Zachary A. Chesser, an Oakton High School graduate and former basketball and football player, was sentenced in 2011 to 25 years in prison in a similar case.

Khattab faces a maximum of five years in prison at his Feb. 7 sentencing, and U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady allowed him to remain free on bond until then. Alan H. Yamamoto, his attorney, said after the hearing that his client is “regretful,” even if he did not mean real harm. “He posted certain items,” Yamamoto said. “People made what they would of them.”

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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