NEW YORK – A man accused of seeking to travel to Pakistan so he could die as a martyr by fighting against U.S. forces pleaded not guilty Friday.
Federal agents had arrested Agron Hasbajrami on Tuesday after he showed up at John F. Kennedy International Airport with a one-way ticket to Turkey. Hasbajrami, who lives in Brooklyn, was ordered held without bail Friday at his arraignment on a charge of providing material support to terrorists.
Prosecutors and defense attorney Nancy Ennis told a federal magistrate in Brooklyn that they expected to resolve the case through plea negotiations. Ennis declined to comment afterward.
The government alleges that since 2010, Hasbajrami — an Albania citizen and legal U.S. resident — gave more than $1,000 to an unidentified terrorist group fighting American soldiers in Afghanistan.
Hasbajrami, 27, sent a message to the group earlier this year saying that he wanted to "marry with the girls in paradise" — a phrase authorities say means he wanted to die a martyr.
Initially, Hasbajrami was told he should travel to Pakistan, where he could locate the militant group through the Pakistani Taliban, prosecutors say. He obtained a visa and a plane ticket but ended up canceling the trip late last month.
On Sept. 3, a confidential source working with the FBI contacted Hasbajrami by email, telling him he could help him still get to Pakistan, prosecutors say. Two days later, he bought a one-way plane ticket to Istanbul and told the source he was on his way, they say.
Investigators say when they intercepted Hasbajrami at Kennedy Airport he was carrying his Albanian passport, a tent, boots and cold-weather gear. He told them "he had intended to travel to Pakistan to fight," court papers say.
If convicted, Hasbajrami could face up to 15 years in prison.
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