Terrorism trial: Prosecution cites texts, defense says ISIS communication never happened in opening statements

In the hours before Laith Alebbini went to the Cincinnati airport to allegedly fly overseas to join ISIS in April 2017, he argued with family members who begged him not to go, a prosecutor said during Tuesday’s opening statements of Alebbini’s terrorism trial in Dayton’s U.S. District Court.

In a purported text conversation with his sister, shown to U.S. District Court Judge Walter Rice via television display, Alebbini’s sister Lina told her brother that she has a class on terrorism and that regarding ISIS, “I swear to God, this is terrorism.”

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In his final response, Alebbini texted back:

“Do you think I am a criminal?

“I am a terrorist.

“I am mujahid.”

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Alebbini, 28, who moved to Dayton in 2017, is on trial for conspiracy and attempting “to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization in the form of personnel to work under ISIS’s direction and control.”

One of Alebbini’s defense attorneys said his client “has not hidden his pro-Islamic State views from family, friends or government” but that Alebbini also has been deeply affected by the “systematic slaughter of Syrian neighbors” by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including the use of Sarin gas to kill people including babies.

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Alebbini’s attorney also told Rice during opening statements that Alebbini had “no firm intent or plan” other than getting to Istanbul to talk to refugees, that he never planned any terrorist attack against anyone, didn’t communicate with anyone with ISIS and that he denounced the killing of innocent people.

Alebbini waived his jury trial and will have his case decided by Rice. Alebbini has pleaded not guilty. The trial is scheduled to last at least through the week.

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