A 23-year-old Sacramento man who the FBI says fought with a Sunni terrorist group in Syria was ordered held in custody without bail on Friday by a federal judge.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Delaney ruled Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab is "a danger and flight risk" during a brief court hearing.
The suspect is an Iraqi citizen who emigrated to the United States in 2012 as a refugee from Syria, according to federal authorities.
He is accused of lying to federal immigration officials about where he traveled in 2013 and 2014 and his activity upon his return to the United States.
Al-Jayab, who appeared shackled at the hands and ankles, did not speak or enter a plea. He wore an orange jail uniform, had a short beard and remained focused on an interpreter during the hearing.
The U.S. Department of Justice alleges Al-Jayab traveled overseas to fight as part of Ansar al-Islam, which has been designated by the U.S. as a Sunni terrorist group since 2004.
The criminal complaint shows what the FBI says are online and social media communications. It says Al-Jayad had conversations with others in Syria about his participation in raids and killings in the war-torn country in late 2013 and early 2014.
The suspect's federal defense attorney, Ben Galloway, asked the judge not to remand his client without bail.
"There’s nothing to suggest Al-Jayab intended to harm anyone in this country," he said in court.
Galloway noted that Al-Jayab is a student and has a job. A college spokesman on Friday said the suspect is a computer science major at American River College, a community college in Sacramento County, where he has been enrolled since last fall.
The defense attorney added it would be wrong to politicize this case.
“Certain politicians talk about refugees coming in here and threatening the country, this case is not what this is about. They've just got it wrong," he said.
In a news release on Thursday, the day the suspect's arrest was announced, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner of the Eastern District of California, said: “While (Al-Jayab) represented a potential safety threat, there is no indication that he planned any acts of terrorism in this country,”
If convicted, Al-Jayab faces a maximum statutory penalty of eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The next court hearing in the case is set for Jan 27.
Also on Friday, Al-Jayab's brother, identified as Samer Al-Jayab, was arraigned on stolen goods charges in Sacramento. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Sacramento said the brother's case was "not a national security case."
Also this week, a man was arrested in Houston on similar terrorism-related charges.