U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang agreed with prosecutors that Abdella Ahmad Tounisi posed a danger and flight risk.
The ruling reverses U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Martin’s decision Thursday to release Tounisi to home confinement on electronic monitors. The release was put on hold after prosecutors quickly appealed the decision to Chang.
Martin had appointed Tounisi’s father to act as custodian to try to ensure he stayed out of trouble.
But Chang said he had “little confidence the family and community can control the defendant,” calling the 18-year-old “a planner” who was able to set up a post office box and obtain a second passport after his family had taken away his first one.
The reversal left Tounisi’s family distraught.
Tounisi, 18, was arrested April 19 at O’Hare International Airport with a ticket to fly to Turkey, where authorities said he planned to meet a handler who would take him to war-torn Syria. Prosecutors allege he posted messages on a phony website set up by the FBI about his plans to fight with Jabhat al-Nusrah, identified by authorities as a terror group in Syria linked to al-Qaida.
In a 16-page appeal filed in court before today’s hearing, prosecutors argued that the trip was the culmination of months of planning by Tounisi and that his family was aware of his plans.
Tounisi "withstood prolonged efforts by others to dissuade him from engaging in violent jihad,” prosecutors wrote. “(His) parents knew about his desire to die a martyr in Syria and tried repeatedly to intervene, all to no avail. Nor were other members of the defendant's community able to convince him that traveling overseas for violent jihad was wrong.
"These facts only reinforce the presumption of dangerousness," prosecutors said.
At Thursday’s hearing, Tounisi's attorney, Molly Armour, denied her client posed either a flight risk or danger and noted that he had never before been arrested.
"The word 'terrorism' is a word that tends to taint everything it touches," she said. "But it is the American system that requires us to look at the individual."
According to authorities, Tounisi has links to a second Chicago area terrorism suspect, Adel Daoud, who was arrested in September after he tried to set off what he thought was a bomb outside a downtown bar. The two were close friends and plotted the bomb attack together, prosecutors allege, but Tounisi backed out when he suspected law enforcement was on to them.