Julio Pino, an associate professor of history at Kent State University in Ohio, is under investigation by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security for his alleged involvement with the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIl. A joint terrorism task force has been investigating Pino – a convert to Islam – for the last 18 months. According to KentWired.com, an FBI special agent who did not wish to be identified said however “There is no direct threat to the university.”
The unnamed agent said that faculty members and students were interviewed this week about Pino and his alleged recruitment for the terrorist Islamic State. Among those contacted was Emily Mills - editor of the Daily Kent Stater, the student newspaper on campus. She had been writing about Pino for several years. After being interviewed by the FBI, Mills said that the FBI gave her permission to publish the information she had about the investigation.
Following the news of the investigation, Kent State University President Beverly Warren released the following statement on January 20:
“Many of you have heard unsettling news overnight that the FBI has been on our Kent Campus investigating a serious matter. We are cooperating with the FBI, and we have been assured that there is no indication of a threat to campus. As this is an ongoing investigation, it is not prudent to speak further about the case.
“We continue to find Julio Pino’s comments reprehensible and counter to our core values of civil discourse and respect. As a university, we do not defend his views, and he does not speak on behalf of Kent State or members of our community.
“Campus safety continues to be our top priority at Kent State, and we remain committed to providing a safe learning environment for our community.”
Pino was accused in 2007 of writing for an Islamic extremist website. Years before, he praised a suicide bomber in an editorial. Pino shouted “death to Israel” during an a lecture by Ishmael Khaldi - an Israeli diplomat’ - in 2011. Pino, who cultivates a revolutionary reputation, wrote on his Facebook page that he is inspired by former Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and the late Red Army Faction co-founder and terrorist Ulrike Meinhof, alongside philosophers communist Rosa Luxemburg and Friedrich Engels. Also, in 2002, Pino wrote a guest column in The Stater praising Ayat al-Akhras, a teenage Palestinian suicide bomber who had murdered Rachel Levy (17) and security guard Haim Smadar (55) at a supermarket in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood that year. The column was titled “Singing out Prayer for a Youth Martyr,” and in it, Pino wrote that Akhras “died a martyr’s death… in occupied Jerusalem, Palestine.”
Later, Pino was charged with disorderly conduct by the Kent Police Department in 2003.
Pino claims he was not aware of any investigation or charges. He also said that the university has not contacted him about the investigation. He claims that he does not support the Islamic State and that he has not broken the law. Pino said all of his activities are legal and he does not support the Islamic State, nor does he discuss the terrorist organization in his classes.
Pino, who converted to Islam in 2000, said he supports the Palestinian cause and is outspoken about his views. “I’ve always been crystal clear about my political views, and I’ve never been charged with any kind of criminal activity nor have I ever tried to impose my political views on anyone, student or non-student,” he told KentWired.com.
An outspoken defender of the Palestinian cause, Pino teaches two courses at Kent State. “I’m sure there are stories circulating out there. People may take them with as much of a grain of salt as they want to, but my current status is that I’m a citizen of the United States with all the rights and obligations that entails,” he said. “I follow the law. I advocate that others do so also. And I ask others to respect my freedom of speech as I respect theirs.”