Mahin Khan was arrested July 1 in Arizona on charges of plotting to support the Taliban and the Islamic State, as well as conspiring to target government buildings in two Arizona cities.
The FBI alleges that the 18-year-old made contact with the terrorist group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), along with contacting an individual, tying to obtain two rifles and a handgun.
Khan’s family claims he suffers from serious mental and emotional illnesses — something that the FBI was aware of. The authorities have met with him regularly since he was 15, after he sent a threatening email to one of his teachers.
At the time, he spent 45 days at an inpatient psychiatric facility for evaluation. Agents reportedly continued to meet with Khan after he returned home and continued to do so up until the time of his arrest — just days after his 18th birthday.
Khan’s family claims the FBI kept meeting the teen under the guise of helping him. They always met him without the presence of a lawyer, as Khan’s family assumed the FBI meant to “help him.”
“They waited until two weeks after his 18th birthday to arrest him, but even now he doesn’t understand the gravity of the things going on around him,” said his father, Atif Khan.
His parents also released a statement:
“We regret to share the events that have led to our son, Mahin Khan's, recent situation with law enforcement.
“Since early childhood, Mahin has suffered with mental health issues including cognitive disorder and developmental delays, namely autism. His struggles with these conditions have been well documented throughout the years. Three years ago, Mahin went through an extensive inpatient psychiatric evaluation under the directive and supervision of the FBI. The evaluation documented the extent and severity of his mental health.
“We have been fully cooperating with the FBI over the last three years to ensure that our son gets the help he needs. Mahin has gone through psychotherapy the past few years. Although he is now 18 years old, Mahin's mental age according to mental health professionals is less than 13. He has limited ability to function on his own. We believe that he does not pose any real threat to society. He simply does not have the mental capacity to carry out the horrendous acts he is being accused of planning.
“We hope that no parents with a child with autism or mental illness should ever have to experience what we are going through. We strongly feel that the criminalization of individuals with mental illness is one of the most significant challenges in our punitive criminal justice system and Mahin undoubtedly falls into this category.
“We appeal to our fellow citizens for understanding, and ask that our son not be stigmatized due to his mental illness. We are going through trauma as a result of the current situation. We ask for the privacy as this case moves forward in the court system. We appreciate the support from the community and those well aware of the situation.”
Mr. & Mrs. Khan
“They (FBI) were meeting with us and saying they were there to help him, but meanwhile they were trying to trap him at the same time,” Khan’s father said.
According to a community activist who doesn’t want to be named, during his meetings with the FBI, Khan had exhibited obvious signs of mental illness.
“He was unable to even tie his shoelaces and his mother would have to do it for him. He would say things supporting extremism and terrorist groups but then would later start crying and apologizing,” the activist told The Intercept.
One of his teachers said the boy had “the mentality of a 6-year-old” and that he had told Khan’s mother that there was no point in having him tutored, as he was “unable to learn anything.”
Here’s what The Intercept claims: “Medical documents reviewed by The Intercept seem to confirm that Khan suffered from cognitive impairments. A developmental evaluation conducted by psychologists last year found that Khan 'requires considerable support from parents to complete day-to-day skills.'”
It also said that he had been adversely impacted by the loss of his older brother, who died after suffering cardiac arrest a year earlier.
Another document released by his former therapist’s office stated that Khan acted “younger than his stated age,” and that his “concept formation and mental processing also lack maturity and forethought.”
Further medical records showed that Khan had been taking anti-psychotic medication in recent years.
Authorities claim the teen wanted to attack a motor vehicle office in Mesa and instructed an undercover FBI employee to start building homemade grenades. They also said he wanted to “inspire an insurgency in the United States to carry out the sort of attacks that had occurred in Paris and Brussels and had online exchanges with a person believed to be a member of the Islamic State terrorist group.”
The claims do not stop here. Authorities also allege Khan had expressed a desire to attack a Jewish community center in Tucson and that they had found a document during a search of his home that showed he wanted to attack a military recruiting center and an LA Fitness location as well.
Khan has pleaded not guilty to state charges of with terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism and conspiracy to commit misconduct involving weapons.
The 18-year-old faces the prospect of several decades in prison. Moreover, unlike the vast majority of terrorism cases in the U.S., his case is being tried at the state level.