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Virginia Man Accused of Trying to Join Somali Terrorists Appears in Court

Zachary Adam Chesser

Zachary Adam Chesser, seen here, participates in a rally last April in Washington, D.C. (Jawa Report)

A Virginia man accused of trying to join a Somali terror group linked to Al Qaeda made his initial court appearance on Thursday and will spend at least one more day in jail.

Zachary Adam Chesser, 20, of Oakton, Va., appeared briefly in U.S. District Court in Virginia on charges that he provided material support to Al-Shabab, the Somalia-based terror organization that claimed responsibility for the bombing that killed 74 people in Uganda during the World Cup earlier this month.

Chesser -- clad in a short-sleeve blue shirt and khaki cargo pants -- appeared in court without an attorney and requested a court-appointed lawyer.

When asked by a federal judge if he had an attorney or wanted the court to appoint one, he replied: "Uh, you appoint one."

Chesser, who faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted, is scheduled to appear in court again on Friday, at which point prosecutors will lay out whether they believe he's a flight risk or a risk to the public.

Prior to the hearing, Chesser, wearing a short beard, looked briefly at the audience, where a woman in a full burqa was sitting.  The woman, who fought back tears at one point, is believed to be Chesser's wife, Proscovia Nzabanita. The couple married in 2009 and they have an infant son, according to court papers.

According to an affidavit, Chesser tried to travel to Somalia to join Al-Shabab as a "foreign fighter." In July 2008, it says, he became interested in Islam and, while learning about the religion, became "very 'extremist' in his beliefs." 

"He explained that he was watching online videos, discussions and debates, and over-the-counter CDs almost obsessively," the affidavit continues. "One of the authors and presenters he preferred was Anwar Awlaki. Awlaki is an American-born and English-speaking American citizen who formerly was an Imam at the Dar al-Hijra mosque in Northern Virginia. Various Islamic terrorist were in contact with Awlaki before engaging in terrorist acts."

Earlier this week, Awlaki was designated by the U.S. Treasury Department as a "specially designated global terrorist."

In April, FoxNews.com spoke to Chesser after he posted a warning on RevolutionMuslim.com following the 200th episode of "South Park," which included a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad disguised in a bear suit. The young man, who just two years ago was studying foreign languages at George Mason University, wrote on the site that Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the cartoon's creators, "will probably end up" like Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker who was murdered in 2004 after making a film critical of Islamic society.

"It's not a threat, but it really is a likely outcome," Chesser told FoxNews.com. "They're going to be basically on a list in the back of the minds of a large number of Muslims. It's just the reality."

Chesser has not been charged in connection to the online posting.

Chesser's father, David, said he was unaware of the arrest and declined further comment when reached on Wednesday. Chesser's mother, Barbara, reached at her office in Washington, also declined comment Wednesday.

Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, declined to comment on whether any other individuals may or may not be under investigation in connection to Chesser.

Fox News' Mike Levine contributed to this report.

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