An alleged American ISIS fighter and former Brooklyn resident was arraigned in federal court in Brooklyn Friday.
Prosecutors in court called Ruslan Asainov, age 42, an “ISIS warrior.” He faces charges of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
Prosecutors claim he was a top sniper and weapons instructor who ultimately became an ISIS “emir” in charge of weapons training, according to court documents.
Asainov did not enter a plea at the arraignment.
His public defender, Susan Kellman, waived the pre-trial hearing.
A grand jury indictment should follow within 30 days, and could bring additional charges, Kellman told reporters after the arraignment.
During the proceedings, Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of New York Judge Steven Gold asked Asainov to answer audibly that he understood the proceedings several times.
His attorney told reporters after the arraignment that Asainov was reticent to answer because he “answers to a high power,” meaning the authority is Allah.
Kellman called Asainov’s demeanor with her during their brief interactions “very pleasant, “respectful” and “forthcoming.”
Kellman also told reporters that his English is perfect and called him “a Brooklyn boy.”
Asainov, who is a naturalized US citizen born in Kazakhstan, was held by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria and was transferred to FBI custody earlier this week.
CNN first reported Thursday that the US had transported the alleged American fighter to the US from Syria.
Asainov was transported to John F. Kennedy International Airport, according to his attorney.
“The defendant, a naturalized US citizen residing in Brooklyn, turned his back on the country that took him in and joined ISIS, serving its violent ends in Syria and attempting to recruit others to its cause,” United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard Donoghue said in a statement.
Prosecutors allege that Asainov traveled to Turkey in December 2013 and subsequently entered Syria and joined ISIS.
The criminal complaint says that he had asked a confidential government informant for $2,800 so that he could purchase a scope for his rifle.
He was eventually captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces and was among the more than 2,000 foreign ISIS fighters being held by the Kurdish-led group.
The number of foreigners in detention increased sharply following the capture of ISIS’ last area of territorial control in Baghouz, Syria, in late March. US officials told CNN in April that they were investigating reports that some of those detainees were US citizens.
The US government has long sought to encourage countries to repatriate their citizens and the Department of Justice has been able to charge several American citizens for their alleged involvement with ISIS.
However, the effort has had limited success to date with only seven countries — the US, Italy, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kazakhstan and Morocco — having publicly repatriated their fighters.
Many countries are reluctant to repatriate their fighters because of the difficulty of prosecuting suspected ISIS members based on evidence collected on the battlefield.
“We hope countries around the world, including our European allies and partners, will likewise repatriate and prosecute their own citizens for traveling to support ISIS,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said in a statement Friday.
Kellman expects Asainov to be held in federal detention in Manhattan or Brooklyn.