A Cary man accused of providing material support to terrorists suffers from schizophrenia, according to federal court documents filed in his case.
Basit Javed Sheikh, the 30-year-old man fighting the terror-related allegations, was involuntarily committed in January by U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle after a hearing in which the defendant unleashed a stream of run-on sentences held together by a commonality.
Sheikh’s concerns, repeated many times in many different ways, were not only that he was arrested in Raleigh-Durham International Airport in late 2013 when he was attempting to leave the country. Sheikh also argued that the United States should pay reparations for war deaths in Pakistan, his native country, Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East – “100 camels worth of monetary compensation.”
“If you’re trying to make a record that you’re not competent, you’re doing an excellent job,” said Boyle, a judge who is known to speak his mind in the courtroom.
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“No, I’m competent,” Sheikh said at the hearing.
Since then, medical experts at a federal mental health facility have found those words not to be true.
The forensic evaluation, ordered by Boyle, determined that Sheikh suffers from schizophrenia and had been exhibiting symptoms since 2012.
While incarcerated, Sheikh has “complained of being ‘tortured,’ that the jail staff were ‘radiating’ him, and that the jail was a ‘fake jail,’” according to a report filed by federal prosecutors. “He additionally expressed beliefs that the tap water had intentionally been altered in order to make him ill and that people were following him,” the report said.
Since being committed to Butner, the federal facility, Sheikh refused to make contact with his family or leave his cell. He appears unkempt and his cell sanitation is poor.
The court document states: “He would not fully cooperate with team meetings, psychological testing, or group education because he repeatedly asserted, ‘I am going home and your government is going to apologize to me.’ He does not believe he has a mental illness and thinks the government is holding him illegally due to being ‘racist against Muslims.’”
Prosecutors have asked Boyle to order the involuntary medication of Sheikh to determine whether treatment could restore him to competency for trial.
When Boyle first ordered Sheik to be involuntarily committed, the judge told the defendant he faced the possibility of the involuntary administration of psychiatric drugs so that he might better understand the seriousness of the charges against him.
“No thanks, no thanks,” Sheikh, a Pakistani native in this country as a legal resident, said at the time. “I am perfectly all right. My belongings should be returned to me and I should be allowed to leave this country.”
The questions raised about Sheikh’s competency are similar to others raised about the mental health of some of the other U.S. residents accused of providing material support to terrorists.
Boyle had declared Sheikh fit to stand trial in June, but Sheik’s defense attorney, said recently he did not think he could provide the best defense possible with Sheikh offering his thoughts so freely inside the courtroom.
In January, Sheikh interrupted a 15-minute hearing often, telling the judge he was ready to tell a jury his story that day and it was a story a U.S. jury should hear.
In a series of run-on sentences, he talked about cluster bombs, the pain he felt for Pakistanis killed in the conflict, President Barack Obama, the U.S. attorney general, his family, the government and his desire to be released from custody so he could go to the airport and “leave this country for good.”
“I have a right to travel the world,” Sheikh said in one of his many outbursts. “I was leaving this country. What’s your moral rationale for holding me?”
Sheikh apparently made three or more attempts to join the Syrian civil war, according to the FBI.
His second attempt was on Sept. 5, 2013, when he booked a one-way flight to Istanbul for the next day. But he abandoned his plans, according to court documents, because he couldn’t reach his contact in Turkey, and he “could not muster the strength to leave his parents.”
Sheikh’s mother has said that her son suffers from anxiety and depression and spent most of his time before his arrest in her home in front of a computer screen.
Sheikh was at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Nov. 2, 2013, when federal agents arrested him.
The agents had first singled him out after he contacted a confidential FBI source on a Facebook page set up and monitored as part of the effort to find U.S. residents looking to fight with militant groups.
Sheikh told one of the FBI employees that he was interested in helping Jabhat al-Nusra via “logistics, media, fight too, God willing,” court documents state. Jabhat al-Nusra is an alias for the Nusra Front, which itself has been declared by the federal government an affiliate of “al-Qaida in Iraq,” putting it under the U.S. Department of State’s “terrorist group” designation.
The FBI source had put Sheikh in touch with “a trusted brother,” supposedly with the militant group Jabhat al-Nusra, who was in fact a covert FBI employee.