The Department of Justice is seeking a 15-year sentence for a Virginia teenager who admitted to using social media to raise money and support for the Islamic State.
Seventeen year-old Ali Shukri Amin of Manassas, Virginia, pleaded guilty in June to conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State, a designated terrorist organization.
Amin admitted to running the Twitter account @AmreekiWitness, which had 4,000 followers. He used this account to send out over 7,000 tweets to develop financial support for the Islamic State and instructed followers on how to make anonymous donations to Islamic State using Bitcoin.
He also admitted to helping to facilitate travel for 18-year-old Reza Niknejad to get to Syria to join the Islamic State. Amin drove with Niknejad to the airport and provided him with instructions on where to go once he arrived in Turkey in order to meet other Islamic State supporters traveling to Syria.
Federal prosecutors allege that Amin's efforts to support ISIL have had an impact on national security and argue that he should receive the maximum sentence - 15 years - based on the "harm that the defendant has caused to this community, the scope of his conduct, and the danger he will continue to pose to society."
Amin has been in the Northern Neck Regional jail since March. His defense lawyer is asking for a sentence of just over six years based on Amin's young age and lack of a criminal record.
The defense submitted over 160 pages of letters on his behalf, including letters from his mother, step-father, biological father, former teachers and members of his mosque.
Amin also wrote a letter to the judge attempting to explain how he got caught up in jihad. "I became lost and caught up in something that takes the greatest and most profound teachings of Islam and turns them into justifications for violence and death," he wrote.
Amin says that once he became involved with promoting jihad online, he developed relationships that became important to him. "These 'friends' treated me with respect and occasionally reverence. For the first time I was not only being taken seriously about a very important and weighty topics, but was actually being asked for guidance." He also told the judge that he has since denounced ISIS.
Amin's mother also wrote to the judge detailing Amin's childhood struggles - growing up without his father and also dealing with health problems including a hand deformity and Crohn's disease. She details how she became an over protective mother and was happy when her son wanted to study his Islamic state. "I never thought letting him have access to the internet by himself would put him at the risk of finding the wrong information about Islam and meeting the wrong people," she writes.
Amin's biological father is a lawyer in the United Arab Emirates. Although he has not seen Amin since he was four years old, he wrote that he plans to come to the U.S. to attend the sentencing on Friday as the two have reconnected since Amin was arrested.
Amin is due to be sentenced by Judge Claude M. Hilton in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia on Friday.