A 17-year-old high school honor student in Virginia was sentenced to 11 years in prison Friday for conspiring to assist the Islamic State (ISIL), which the US has declared a terror group. Among other allegations, Ali Shukri Amin was charged for assisting ISIL via blog and Twitter posts about encryption and Bitcoin.
“Ali Shukri Amin is a young American who used social media to provide material support to ISIL,” assistant Attorney General John Carlin said in a statement following Friday’s sentencing before US District Judge Claude Hilton in Virginia. “More and more, their propaganda is seeping into our communities and reaching those who are most vulnerable.”
Amin, one of the youngest people in the US to face terror charges, pleaded guilty (PDF) in June and faced a maximum 15 years in prison. The boy founded the @amreekiwitness Twitter handle a year ago, garnering more than 4,000 followers and tweeting more than 7,000 times. Last year, the authorities said, he tweeted on the now-defunct Twitter handle about how jihadists could use Bitcoin “to fund their efforts.”
“The article explained what Bitcoins were, how the Bitcoin system worked, and suggested using Dark Wallet, a new Bitcoin wallet, which keeps the user of Bitcoins anonymous. The article included statements on how to set up an anonymous donations system to send money, using Bitcoin, to the mujahedeen,” according to Amin’s court admission. (PDF)
The Prince William County Osbourn Park High School student said he “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.”
On his blog, the boy said he “authored a series of highly technical articles targeted at aspiring jihadists and ISIL supporters detailing the use of security measures in online communications to include the use of encryption and anonymity software, tools and techniques, as well as the use of the virtual currency Bitcoin as a means to anonymously fund ISIL.”
The defendant was also accused of radicalizing an 18-year-old Virginia youth, Reza Niknejad, who traveled to Syria in January to join ISIL, the authorities said.