Houston/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on February 26, 2024
Houston Heats Up as Man Accused of Plot Against Jews Faces Trial for Illegal ArmsSource: Unsplash/ Wesley Tingey

The Houston trial for a Palestinian man accused of plotting an attack on Jewish people is set to commence on Monday. Sohaib Abuayyash, 20, faces charges over unlawful possession of a firearm. Arrested last August and charged with possession of an AR-style rifle and two handguns, Abuayyash is in the country on an expired tourist visa, reported the Houston Chronicle.

According to federal court records, Abuayyash was not granted the rights to possess or use firearms due to his visa status as an alien. FBI Director Chris Wray, warning Congress back in October, mentioned foiling a potential attack by Abuayyash against Jewish people in Houston, just following a devastating Hamas attack on Israel. However, the public defender insists that "This case is not about Israel or Palestine, it’s not about current events,” the Houston Public Media quotes Amr Adnan Ahmed as saying.

Jury selection on Friday questioned individuals on diverse American flashpoints, screening their views on gun ownership laws and the legal protections that should be afforded to immigrants. Connections to, or opinions on, the Jewish and Palestinian conflict were also probed, distilling 60 potential jurors down to a panel of 14 for the trial.

While Abuayyash's name was not explicitly stated by Wray during the Congressional testimony, an FBI spokesman later confirmed Wray's allegations about bomb-building research and online messages advocating the killing of Jewish people were indeed about Abuayyash. The court documents, however, don't explicitly link Abuayyash to Hamas or make mention of specific threats in Houston. A law enforcement source disclosed to CNN on November 13 that Abuayyash was “plotting to attack a Jewish gathering,” while court documents depict someone who seems to quickly learn how to build bombs and is enthused to train for a possible attack.

If convicted on the federal firearms charge, Abuayyash could serve a sentence of up to 15 years. "As anti-Semitic threats against Jews in the United States have reached historic levels in recent weeks, it is critical that we ensure the safety of Jewish families in Texas’s Seventh Congressional District and across our country," said Texas Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher in a statement subsequent to his arrest, as reported by the Houston Public Media.