Stanford law professor Joshua Engel, who has been criticized for advocating for the prosecution of terrorism suspects, said he never expected to be imprisoned for advocating on behalf of jihadis.
“It was never on my radar,” Engel told ABC News.
“I didn’t think it was possible that a federal judge would convict me of a felony.”
The retired Stanford law student was arrested in September on terrorism-related charges.
In January, he was ordered to surrender to the FBI.
“I think there is an element of vindictiveness in the federal government’s prosecution of the professor,” Engel said.
“The fact that they can’t arrest him shows they’ve got a very different interpretation of the law than the federal courts.”
In addition to being on the U.S. terror watch list, Engel also is a practicing Muslim.
He’s been active in the fight against violent extremism and has been critical of U.N. efforts to tackle the issue.
“The government is essentially trying to silence me, as a Muslim,” he said.
“They’re trying to intimidate me and my family by threatening to prosecute me for doing what I’m doing, writing the article.”
Engel said he’s worried the government’s crackdown on terrorism has created an environment where those who advocate for Islamic law and the rights of women and children are often marginalized.
“My fear is that there’s a real danger that the courts will be set up to support the government and its narrative that jihadis are violent,” he added.
In March, Engel was sentenced to three months in prison for his role in an online article that argued that the U:m a better place to live than Saudi Arabia, a country with a permissive Sharia law and a record of human rights violations.
He was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.
The university’s president and chancellor, Nancy L. Burdick, told ABC affiliate KTVU that Engel’s arrest was “very unfortunate” and that he has been cooperative with prosecutors.
“As a lawyer and an advocate for the rights and protections of our students, I have never expected that I would be subjected to this kind of scrutiny and I am grateful that the prosecution has decided not to pursue any criminal charges,” she said in a statement.ABC News’ Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.