Elkhaldey Faez

Elkhaldey Faez, also known as Mohsen Hammami, was born in Palestine on April 12, 1964, but was living as a homeless man in Scordia (CT). Faez came under the scrutiny of the Carabinieri’s “Operation Masrah” beginning in early 2008, as he was suspected of being associated with a cell affiliated with al-Qaeda in Andria, led by the Imam Hassen Hachemi Ben Hosni.
According to judicial papers, the cell was a gathering of people united by the same mindset and religious ideology, often expressing their readiness and willingness to reach conflict zones and do martyrdom. The Islamic Center and Hosni’s call center served as hubs for ideological indoctrination, utilising web searches and the analysis of militaristic and terrorist materials. Alongside Azam, the other members in the group identified by the police were Nabil Azam, Nour Ifaoui, Romdhane Ben Chedli Khaireddine, and Hamdi Chamari.
Despite claiming during police interrogation that he was often intoxicated while on the phone and denied having any sympathies for jihadists or harbouring anti-Western sentiments, the extensive wiretapped conversations painted a different picture. In an exchange with an individual named Sami in April 2009, they cynically labelled the radical faction of the Andria group as the “Hamas group” and openly discuss the defeat of Jews. Another concerning conversation with Azam in April 2009 exposed the defendant’s animosity towards Israelis and Arab leaders allied with America, asserting that diplomatic efforts had ceased. This animosity extended to Italians as well, as evidenced by a discussion with an individual named Khaled in September 2009, and further demonstrated after the L’Aquila earthquake in April 2009, where the defendant expressed satisfaction that Italians were seemingly being punished by God.
All these anti-Western rhetoric and religious fanaticism are considered as God’s will, implying certain lifestyle choices based on the ideological imagery manifested through violent radicalism, willingness to martyrdom, and a violent and terroristic nature that considers martyrdom necessary for the Islamic faith. These beliefs are rooted in al-Qaeda’s teachings and Bin Laden’s communications, as the terrorist was revered by the entire group who would call him ‘Sheikh’, and during a conversation with Azam in January 2009, they collectively referred to him as “the believers’ Emir”, expressing their hopes for his triumph over non-believers.
Within the group, Faez shared a particularly close bond with Azam, as evidenced by their shared aspirations for martyrdom and jihad in conflict zones, as discussed in their phone conversations. However, Faez was cognisant of the illegality of their intentions and the potential scrutiny they could face from law enforcement. In one conversation with Azam, Faez expressed frustration over his inability to travel to conflict zones, exacerbated by living in Italy, where Muslims are a minority. He compared his own living conditions to those of the mujaheddin fighters. A particularly noteworthy message sent by Azam to Faez in January 2009 reads, “take my blood and my body according to your plan, amen,” revealing their shared martyrdom aspirations typical among jihadists. This evidence underscores the connections between Faez and the other defendants, their group affiliation, jihadist beliefs, and willingness to martyrdom. However, unlike the other defendants, Faez resided in Scordia (Sicily) and did not frequent Hosni’s call center, where propagandistic materials were watched and downloaded. Nevertheless, this does not imply that he was not involved in propaganda and proselytism activities. Often, Faez was briefed by Azam about the sermons and videos he had encountered, enabling them to discuss and comment on them together.
Still, it could be asserted that Faez’s radicalisation journey was marked by anti-Western and anti-Semitic sentiments, coupled with an aversion towards Muslim nations allied with the US. This process was further characterised by membership in a group where each member openly shared interest in engaging in conflict zones to do jihad, discussing tactics such as explosives and firearms procurement while being cognisant of associated risks and taking precautions. Radicalisation also entailed isolating oneself from friends, family, and society at large, spending time exclusively with like-minded individuals. This fostered the formation of a micro-community detached from external influences, allowing for the unrestricted practice of their interpretation of Islam. Consequently, the radicalisation process became a psychological, motivational, and emotional spiral, wherein religious doctrines were internalised to such an extent that death is embraced while life was perceived solely as a means to achieve martyrdom.
Moreover, according to court documents, it was revealed that on May 6, 2009, Faez was detained by the Scordia police. He provided them with a false name and was subsequently taken to the police station where he was arrested. During the investigation, it was discovered that Faez had failed to comply with the directive issued by the Police Commissioner of Caltanissetta on November 11, 2006, ordering him to leave Italy.
On February 6, 2013, the preliminary investigation judge of Bari ordered pre-trial detention for Faez due to his possession of fake documents and his connections in his home country, rendering him a potential fugitive. He was charged under art. 270 bis of the Italian Criminal Code for involvement in a terrorist network in Andria, engaging in proselytism through propagandistic videos, audios, and documents, espousing anti-Semitic and anti-Western sentiments, and facilitating illegal immigration through the use of false documents.
Faez was arrested on April 30, 2013. On September 24, 2014, the Tribunal of Bari sentenced Faez to 3 years and 4 months in prison, taking into account his lack of prior charges, despite his failure to demonstrate any remorse for his actions. Meanwhile, despite the circumstances, Faez continued to maintain contact with other members of the group, including Ifaoui, as evidenced by their communication in April 2014. On October 27, 2015, the Appeal Court confirmed the sentence. The judge confirmed the existence of an organised, albeit rudimentary, cell with clear criminal intent. Its members were engaged in recruiting and radicalising individuals for jihad, united by shared religious beliefs. Nevertheless, the judge noted that none of the group members had carried out their intended terrorist actions, thus preventing the realisation of their terroristic aims.
On July 14, 2016, the Court of Cassation overturned Faez’s conviction because no crime was committed according to art. 270 bis. The judge determined that the indoctrination intended to incite individuals to engage in jihad did not amount to a terrorist act since no such actions were carried out; none of the individuals involved actually traveled to the conflict zones. Additionally, the judge acknowledged the group’s limited capabilities, stating that there was no evidence indicating their concrete ability to execute their plans or pose a threat to Italy.