D.A. Bragg, P.C. Sewell: Radical Cleric Shaikh Faisal Sentenced to 18 Years in Prison for Recruiting Supporters and Facilitating Efforts to Join ISIS

March 23, 2023

Pictured: A still image from one of the defendant’s online lectures, in which the defendant declares, “The way forward is not the ballot. The way forward is the bullet.”

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., and New York City Police Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell today announced the sentencing of TREVOR WILLIAM FORREST, a/k/a “SHAIKH ABDULLAH FAISAL,” a/k/a “SHAIKH FAISAL,” 59, for recruiting, soliciting, and inspiring students and followers to pledge allegiance to, travel to, join and commit acts of terrorism on behalf of the Islamic State, a/k/a “ISIS” or “ISIL.” Faisal is sentenced to 18 years in state prison.

“Shaikh Faisal’s advocacy, recruitment and provision of material support to ISIS helped the terrorist organization perform horrific acts, including the murder and kidnapping of innocent people,” said District Attorney Bragg. “Our Counter Terrorism Program worked alongside our NYPD partners to convict Faisal and secure today’s prison sentence. Tragically, Manhattan will continue to be a target for those who want to harm this country. Working with our federal and state law enforcement partners, our office stands at the ready to continue combatting terrorism.”

“Today’s sentencing makes our city, and our nation, safer,” said NYPD Commissioner Sewell. “As long as supporters of international terrorism continue to threaten the people we serve, the NYPD and our law enforcement partners will work tirelessly to bring them to justice. I want to thank the NYPD’s Intelligence and Counterterrorism investigators, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, and everyone else involved in this critical case.”

Following a two-month long trial in New York State Supreme Court, FAISAL was convicted on all counts on January 26, 2023, after two hours of deliberation. The New York State Supreme Court jury found FAISAL guilty of Soliciting or Providing Support for an Act of Terrorism in the First Degree as a Crime of Terrorism, Soliciting or Providing Support for an Act of Terrorism in the First Degree, Attempted Soliciting or Providing Support for an Act of Terrorism in the First Degree as a Crime of Terrorism, Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree as a Crime of Terrorism and Attempted Soliciting or Providing Support for an Act of Terrorism.

As proven in the first-ever New York State terrorism trial, FAISAL used his public profile and personal network as the top English-speaking recruiter for ISIS to solicit and provide material support for the Islamic State’s acts of violence and terrorism against others through:

  • violent jihadist advocacy and ISIS recruitment through different writings, speeches and recordings
  • tradecraft instructions to others on how best to travel to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS and how best to avoid suspicion or arrest
  • providing contact information of foreign fighters to facilitate entry into and support in ISIS regions and acceptance by ISIS partners
  • strategizing with Islamic State fighters on battlefield tactics
  • creating opportunities for women jihadi aspirants to meet and marry ISIS adherents
  • inspiring others to commit their own violent acts in allegiance to ISIS

The case was the result of a joint investigation by the NYPD Intelligence Bureau and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Counter Terrorism Program, which was created in June 2015 to identify and pursue investigative leads related to terror plots, extremist activities, and terror-financing.

FAISAL began communicating with an undercover NYPD officer based in New York in November 2016 while he was living in St. James, Jamaica. Ultimately, FAISAL provided the undercover officer with contact information for an individual based in Raqqa, Syria. In early 2017, that individual contacted the undercover officer and began collecting information about this person’s location and whereabouts in order to facilitate entry into the Islamic State.

Over emails, text messages, and video chats, FAISAL encouraged the undercover officer to view his lectures online and sent propagandist reports from an official Islamic State news outlet. After their initial exchanges, the defendant offered to help the undercover officer leave the U.S. and travel to the Middle East to support foreign fighters abroad. FAISAL also offered to connect this individual with his contacts in ISIS, cautioning and coaching the undercover officer to be careful about what she said to whom, including using coded language and an encrypted chat tool while communicating with FAISAL and his associates.
When the undercover officer informed FAISAL that she was certified to perform first aid and CPR and wanted to go overseas to provide aid to ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria, FAISAL then suggested that the undercover officer marry someone in the Islamic State to enable travel abroad. He offered to broker the arrangement.

Members of the NYPD Intelligence Bureau, along with the undercover officer, traveled to the Middle East in 2017 and were given information from FAISAL on how to contact that person in the Islamic State.

Since 2014, FAISAL has publicly supported the Islamic State and called for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate and encouraged violent acts through numerous online lectures and militant propaganda in support of the terror organization. FAISAL, one of the world’s most influential English-speaking terrorists, was previously convicted in the U.K. of crimes related to inciting murder and using racially charged, hateful rhetoric in furtherance of terrorist ideologies.
Assistant District Attorneys Gary J. Galperin (Senior Investigative Counsel),  David Stuart (Counter Terrorism Program Coordinator) and Kenneth N. Moore, Jr., handled prosecution of the case, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorneys Michael Ohm (Deputy Bureau Chief of the Rackets Bureau), Judy Salwen (Principal Deputy Chief of the Rackets Bureau), Jodie Kane (Chief of the Rackets Bureau) and Executive Assistant District Attorneys Christopher Conroy (Senior Advisor to the Investigation Division) and  Susan Hoffinger (Chief of the Investigation Division).

District Attorney Bragg also thanked former Chief of Investigations Michael Sachs, Senior Investigator Michael O’Brien, Deputy Chief Investigator Michael Wigdor, Chief Investigator Walter Alexander, Director of Intelligence and Analysis for Counterterrorism Ryan Rittenberg, Senior Counterterrorism Analyst Catherine Schreck, Cardozo Law School Intern Olivia Corn, Data Specialist Olivia Savell, Supervising Computer Forensic Analyst Douglas Daus, under the supervision of Steven Moran, Director of the High Tech Analysis Unit, former Deputy Chief of Intelligence Kevin Branzetti, former Supervising Counterterrorism Analyst Andrea Mufarreh, former Counterterrorism Analyst Dana Simcox, and former Deputy Director of the High Tech Analysis Unit David Chan.

District Attorney Bragg thanked the following individuals and agencies for their assistance with the investigation: the NYPD, and in particular, Chief of Intelligence and Counterterrorism Thomas Galati, Assistant Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism Rebecca Weiner, Chief of Intelligence John Hart, Chief Paul Ciorra, Chief Roberto Rios, Inspector Joseph Seminara, former Inspector Paul Mauro, Captain Rob Bava, Captain Steve Beatty, Former Director Ravi Satkalmi, Sergeant Sherif Moussa, Sergeant Mourad Mourad, former Detective Ilter Aykac, former Lieutenant Kevin Young, former Intelligence Research Specialists Krisztina Johnson and Jacques Singer-Emery; the U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs, Criminal Division, the United States Marshal Service in particular, Assistant Director for Investigations Henry Geberth; and the Jamaica Constabulary Force, in particular, then Detective Sergeant Ronald Walker, currently of the USMS, and all the undercover officers involved in this investigation.

District Attorney Bragg also thanked former Assistant District Attorney Deborah Hickey and former NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller.
Defendant Information:
St. James, Jamaica

  • Soliciting or Providing Support for an Act of Terrorism in the First Degree as a Crime of Terrorism, a class B violent felony, 1 count
  • Soliciting or Providing Support for an Act of Terrorism in the First Degree, a class C violent felony, 1 count
  • Attempted Soliciting or Providing Support for an Act of Terrorism in the First Degree as a Crime of Terrorism, a class C violent felony, 1 count
  • Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree as a Crime of Terrorism, a class D violent felony, 1 count
  • Attempted Soliciting or Providing Support for an Act of Terrorism in the First Degree, a class D violent felony, 1 count


  • 18 years in state prison
  • 5 years post-release supervision

About the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Counter Terrorism Program: The Counter Terrorism program was founded in spring 2015 when New York City was facing increased terrorism threats from the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and homegrown violent extremists. The program is situated within the Rackets Bureau and consists of a full-time prosecutor as the counterterrorism coordinator, other senior prosecutors assigned from the Rackets Bureau to work on individual investigations and cases and four full-time counterterrorism analysts.