A Tunisian national has been charged in New York City with fraudulently applying for a work visa so he could remain in the US to allegedly carry out terrorist operations on behalf of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Ahmed Abassi has been in federal custody since April 22 and has pleaded not guilty. He was charged in a two-count federal indictment unsealed on Thursday.
It accuses Mr. Abassi of making false statements while applying for a green card and while applying for a work visa. Both false statements were allegedly made to facilitate an act of international terrorism.
Each charge carries a maximum term of 25 years in prison.
Mr. Esseghaier is in custody in Canada, where he is facing terrorism charges.
Officials said Abassi had “radicalized” Esseghaier by engaging in discussions about Abassi’s alleged desire to carry out terrorist attacks against targets in the US and other countries. He also allegedly expressed a desire to recruit like-minded individuals in the US to engage in terrorist attacks.
“The allegations in this case serve as still another reminder that terrorism has not abated, that we must remain vigilant, and that when we do, terrorist plots against us can be thwarted,” New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in a statement.
According to the US Attorney’s Office in New York, Abassi met with the undercover FBI agent on April 12. The two allegedly discussed Abassi’s efforts to recruit others for terrorist plots, and the possibility that Abassi might obtain immigration documents to remain in the United States under the guise of working for the [undercover agent’s] US-based company.
“In reality, Abassi made clear that he wanted to obtain immigration documents and to remain in the United States so that he could engage in ‘projects’ relating to future terrorist activities, including recruitment,” according to a written statement from the US Attorney’s Office.
Abassi is accused of making false statements on two immigration applications – under penalty of perjury – and then mailing those applications to the government.