Aurora man convicted of trying to join terrorist group pens letter asking for compassionate release

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidjer WLS logo
Saturday, November 12, 2022
Man jailed for trying to join terrorist camp asks for compassionate release
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The letter asks for compassionate release from prison and offering a detailed explanation of why he's no terror threat.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Abdella Tounisi of Aurora has been in federal prison for nearly a decade after trying to join a terrorist group in Syria and plotting to blow up a Naperville nightclub.

Now he has sent a letter from his cell in an Indiana prison.

The front of the envelope features 20 American flag stamps, five displaying the US Purple Heart.

The letter asks for compassionate release from prison and offering a detailed explanation of why he's no terror threat.

Tounisi was just 18 when he was arrested at O'Hare International Airport, bound for the Middle East. He was trying to get to a Syrian terrorist training camp, according to federal agents. The investigators who arrested him in 2013 said he also had another plan: as the I-Team first reported in 2014, Tounisi had told an FBI informant he wanted to blow up a nightclub on Route 59 in Naperville.

That didn't happen and the then-teenager never made it to terrorism 101.

But after pleading guilty, a federal judge called him a villain and gave him the 15 year maximum sentence.

Over the past few months Tounisi has been fighting for early release from the U.S. penitentiary in Terre Haute, claiming COVID could kill him if he was infected.

In the filed 133 page handwritten brief, the personal letter from a terrorist to the court includes pages of personal medical details, and a dissertation on what he claims not to have done.

"It wasn't due to an undying desire to support terrorism or terrorist," he writes in third person about his plans that "he witnessed contrived and grave injustice and his predisposition to aid and help those in need."

"He wanted to go to deal with the root cause of the problem, not specifically help," Tounisi writes.

He also claims not to have "had any direct communication with any foreign terrorist organization, has not owned any firearms, explosives, knives, was not specially trained in combat or guerrilla strategies and tactics."

Tounisi's family, who attended court hearings where he pleaded guilty in 2015, contributed to the jailhouse letter, offering themselves and their Plainfield home if the convicted terror operative, now 28, is allowed an early and compassionate release.

Almost a decade ago hard-nosed federal prosecutors remarkably urged the judge to show mercy in his sentence, saying Tounisi actually just wanted to help out.

But, as Tounisi asks for COVID compassionate release, those same prosecutors stand in opposition to any early pass from prison.

In a filing they remind the court Tournisi was intent on joining a terrorist organization with the goal of committing a martyrdom operation.