A US Air Force veteran who allegedly tried to travel to Syria is set to stand trial as the first United States citizen to stand trial accused of attempting to join the terrorist group Islamic State (Isis). Questionnaires were distributed to the first 500 potential jurors in Brooklyn, New York in the trial of Tairod Pugh, a 48-year-old New Jersey resident accused of attempting to provide material support to IS, Reuters has reported.
The questionnaire aims to establish their impartiality in acting as a juror in the case. The jurors have been granted anonymity out of concern that they may be targeted by domestic extremists. Prosecutors say that Pugh, who served with the US Air Force from 1986 to 1990 and subsequently worked as a commercial airplane mechanic in Kuwait, bought a one-way ticket from Cairo to Istanbul in January 2015.
They allege that he intended to travel through Turkey to IS-controlled territory in Syria. He was sent back to Cairo by Turkish authorities, where police found a broken electronic device with a picture of a machine gun, claim prosecutors. Deported to the US, he told an undercover FBI agent that he intended to join IS once he reached Syria. Prosecutors claim that Pugh's laptop contained jihadist propaganda videos and a letter to his Egyptian wife pledging to use his skills "to establish and defend Islamic State".
Despite colleagues telling the FBI in 2001 that Pugh had expressed sympathy with then-al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and in 2002 that he wanted to fight for Islamist militamnts in Chechnya, Pugh worked as an army contractor in Iraq, and subsequently as an airplane mechanic.
Pugh is one of 80 US citizens charged in federal cases relating to IS since 2014.