Abduction and terrorism trial after boy found dead at New Mexico compound opens with mom’s testimony

by Sophia Chen
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Terrorism Trial

The trial concerning the abduction and alleged terrorism plot following the tragic death of a young boy at a remote compound in New Mexico commenced with a heartfelt testimony from the child’s mother. This sorrowful case revolves around the abduction of a frail toddler from his Georgia residence by family members without the mother’s consent. The child, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, was taken to a desolate desert encampment in northern New Mexico, where he ultimately lost his life.

The trial encompasses four family members, including the boy’s aunts, facing charges of kidnapping, terrorism, or a combination of both. These charges stem from a law enforcement operation in August 2018, which aimed to locate the missing 3-year-old at a squalid encampment near the Colorado border. Shockingly, authorities discovered 11 malnourished children living in deplorable conditions, devoid of running water, surrounded by tire berms, and with an adjacent shooting range where firearms and ammunition were confiscated.

Abdul-Ghani’s mother, Hakima Ramzi, tearfully recounted her affection and care for her son, who grappled with severe developmental disabilities and frequent seizures. She described her astonishment when her husband, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, and his sibling accused her of practicing black magic on the child. Ramzi vehemently denied these allegations, emphasizing that she was not inclined towards such practices.

Despite her pleas and denials, Ramzi’s husband and sister-in-law ventured abroad to explore alternative healing methods based on the Quran. Following her decision to seek a divorce, Ramzi disclosed that Siraj Ibn Wahhaj took their son to a park and never returned. Her attempts to locate them via phone proved fruitless, leading her to involve the police and child protective services.

Authorities allege that the family engaged in firearms and tactical training, ostensibly preparing for attacks against the government. This alarming belief was linked to the notion that the boy would be resurrected as Jesus Christ and reveal which corrupt government and private institutions needed to be eliminated.

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, the boy’s father, along with his sisters Hujrah and Subhanah Wahhaj, and the latter’s husband, Lucas Morton, faced charges such as conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States. Morton and Siraj Ibn Wahhaj also faced conspiracy charges related to the intent to harm U.S. government personnel. Notably, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, due to his status as the boy’s father, had not been charged with kidnapping.

Federal prosecutors intend to present evidence suggesting that Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and his partner, Jany Leveille, a Haitian national, brought Abdul-Ghani to New Mexico in December 2017. There, they allegedly performed daily prayer rituals over the suffering child, who cried and exhibited severe health issues. Prosecutors further assert that the child was denied essential medication, resulting in a deterioration of his health. Leveille, initially charged with kidnapping and terrorism-related offenses, has since agreed to a reduced sentence for weapons charges and has not appeared at the trial.

Defense attorneys for sisters Hujrah and Subhanah Wahhaj argued that terrorism allegations against the mothers, who are New York City natives, are primarily based on a fantastical diary authored by Leveille, expressing her belief in the resurrection of Abdul-Ghani. They characterized these allegations as hypothetical and emphasized that the family’s struggle to secure basic shelter in a challenging, remote environment should not be misinterpreted as terrorism.

Regarding Abdul-Ghani’s tragic death shortly after arriving in New Mexico, the defense asserted that what the government labeled as kidnapping was, in fact, a family’s journey to New Mexico.

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, who opted not to have an attorney, cautioned jurors about the government’s attempt to portray familial closeness as terrorism. He urged the jurors to assess the credibility of testimony obtained by the FBI from interviews with the children.

The defense has previously contended that their clients would not be facing terrorism-related charges if they were not Muslim. It’s worth noting that the missing boy’s grandfather is Siraj Wahhaj, a Muslim cleric who leads a prominent New York City mosque with a history of attracting radicals, including one individual involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

The elder Wahhaj, demonstrating a commitment to justice even when it involves one’s own family, observed the trial from the courtroom gallery, maintaining an open mind throughout the proceedings.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Terrorism Trial

What are the charges in the trial related to the New Mexico compound case?

The charges in this trial include kidnapping, terrorism, and conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States. Some defendants also face conspiracy to kill U.S. government personnel charges.

Who are the key individuals involved in this trial?

The key individuals in this trial include Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj’s mother, Hakima Ramzi, and the defendants: Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, Hujrah Wahhaj, Subhanah Wahhaj, and Lucas Morton. Jany Leveille, another individual involved, has accepted a reduced sentence on weapons charges.

What were the circumstances leading to Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj’s disappearance and death?

Abdul-Ghani was taken from his Georgia home without his mother’s permission and brought to a remote compound in New Mexico. The prosecution alleges that he was subjected to daily prayer rituals and denied essential medication, leading to his tragic death.

What is the basis for the terrorism charges in this trial?

The terrorism charges are rooted in allegations that the family engaged in firearms and tactical training, with some members believing that Abdul-Ghani would be resurrected as Jesus Christ and identify corrupt government and private institutions that needed to be eliminated.

Why hasn’t Siraj Ibn Wahhaj been charged with kidnapping?

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, as the boy’s father, has not been charged with kidnapping due to his legal status as the child’s parent.

Is there a religious aspect to this case?

Yes, there is a religious dimension to the case. The family’s actions were influenced by their beliefs, which included the idea that the boy would be resurrected in a messianic role.

What role does the Muslim cleric Siraj Wahhaj play in this trial?

Siraj Wahhaj, the missing boy’s grandfather, leads a well-known New York City mosque. Some defense attorneys have suggested that their clients wouldn’t face terrorism charges if they were not Muslim. Siraj Wahhaj has been observing the trial, emphasizing the importance of standing up for justice even if it involves one’s own family.

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