After spending several months fighting with Syrian foces, 30-year old former US soldier Eric Harroun of Pheonix, AZ joined the al-Qaeda linked terrorist organization Jabhat al-Nusra. Harroun was arrested by US officials last week and charged with participating in terrorist activities, particularly conspiring to use a rocket-propelled grenade will fighting on behalf of his organization in Syria. If convicted, Harroun faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Harroun discusses his activities in a string of posts on the social media sites Facebook and Youtube. He chronicles his dedication to defeating the Assad regime in Syria, is often smiling in photos, and posts strongly-worded, opinionated responses to anyone who may voice their disagreement with his efforts. Harroun has been quite open about his activities with al-Nusra, making statements to American media outlets and often posting publicly on internet forums. He only recently attracted the attention of the US government after his association with al-Nusra became clear.
Harroun explained, “I was separated in a battle, and most of my group was K.I.A. And Al-Nusra picked me up,” Harroun told FoxNews.com, adding, “Getting into Al-Nusra is not rocket science. It just takes balls and brains.”
Very few high-profile cases of “rogue” US military veterans have been tried thus far, and it will be interesting to track the tactics the defense uses throughout this trial. In the few cases that have garnered significant press, there is often emphasis placed on PTSD and combat-related stressors that triggered the Defendant’s alleged criminal behavior.
In a case, however, that seems so clearly to be an instance of a citizen with strong beliefs determined to fight for his cause no matter what the stakes, it would undoubtedly be difficult for Harroun’s military experience to play a significant role in the trial.
Harroun made his first court appearance in Virginia this past week.
Kelly Ann Taddonio, Research Fellow
Center for Policy and Research