A former US stockbroker has been convicted of being an Islamic State sniper and training dozens of other long-range snipers for the terror group.
Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, 46, is a Kazakh-born American citizen who left his family in Brooklyn in December 2013 before heading to Syria just as ISIS came to power.
The trial is the latest in a series of cases against people accused of leaving their country to join Islamic State.
Asainov’s ex-wife told the court he converted to Islam in 2009 and then quit his job as a broker before he started watching radical sermons online.
The prosecution had built the case largely on Asainov’s own words in messages, emails, recorded phone calls and an FBI interview.
Prosecutors said he fought in numerous battles as a sniper for ISIS and taught nearly 100 other militants shooting skills.
In his closing statement, prosecutor Douglas Pravda told a court in Brooklyn, New York that “people have died as a result of the defendant’s conduct. It’s time to hold him accountable.”
Asainov did not testify and told the court that he “was not part of this process”.
“Very distorted view”
Asainov’s lawyers did not dispute that he had traveled to Syria and was affiliated with ISIS, but argued that his accounts were boastful and did not prove that his conduct resulted in death from anyone.
Sabrina Shroff told the jury it was clear her client had a “very distorted opinion” but that they should not “confuse his opinions with what is necessary to convict him beyond a reasonable doubt”.
The trial heard that Asainov sent photos of himself in camouflage with a rifle, as well as photos of the bloodied bodies of men he claimed to have fought.
After his arrest, he defiantly stated in court that he was a “citizen of the Islamic State, not a citizen of the United States”.
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Prison officials said they also discovered a hand-drawn version of the group’s flag in his cell.
He told his mother in a recorded call on the facility’s phones that her son “no longer exists” and that he would “fight until the end”.
Jurors found Asainov guilty of offenses including providing and attempting to provide support to a terrorist organization.
His actions resulted in at least one death, the jury found, which could mean he faces life in prison.
He will be sentenced on June 7.