Sheikh Hassan’s retreat

SheikhExpounds Yesterday afternoon I attended the hearing set by Judge Davis in the cases of the five “Minnesota men” charged with seeking to join ISIS. I wrote about the cases in the Weekly Standard articles “The threat from ‘Minnesota men'” and, most recently, in “Judging the ‘Minnesota men.'” I wrote about the background to yesterday’s hearing in “Follow that Muhammad.” It’s hard to keep the Muhammads straight without a scorecard.

Coincidentally, the Standard published the most recent article with a photograph of the star of yesterday’s hearing expounding outside the courthouse (above at right). The gentleman is the renowned Somali “community leader,” imam, law school graduate, legal assistant, adjunct law professor and member of the defense team of defendant Mohamed Farah. His name is variously given, but his Minnesota Da’wah Institute profiles him under the name Hassan “Jaamici” Mohamud. We learned yesterday that one or more defendants in the case apparently refer to him in a secretly recorded conversation as “Sheikh Hassan.”

The prosecutors have given notice of their intent to introduce evidence that Mohamud taught co-defendant Abdirizak Warsame (who has pleaded guilty) and others how to recite the prayer for jihad on the battlefield just before Warsame and the rest were to leave for Syria. Assistant United States Attorney John Docherty explained that Farah and Warsame talked about the prayer taught by “Sheikh Hassan” in a conversation recorded by the FBI’s confidential source in the case on April 2, 2015. In his discussions with prosecutors related to his guilty plea, Warsame identified the “Sheikh Hassan” referred to in the recorded conversation as the Hassan Mohamud assisting in Farah’s defense.

Mohamud works in the office of defense counsel P. Chinedu Nwaneri; Nwaneri and attorney Murad Mohammud were co-counsel for Farah. On the morning of the hearing yesterday, Nwaneri filed a motion seeking to withdraw from his representation of Farah and thus remove Mohamud from the defense team. After interrogating Nwaneri, Mohammud and Farah, and hearing out other counsel of record in the case, Judge Davis granted Nwaneri’s withdrawal motion.

As a result of Judge Davis’s order setting yesterday’s hearing, we learned that Hassan Mohamud had sought to persuade Warsame against pleading guilty. In response to Judge Davis’s order setting the hearing, Warsame attorney Jon Hopeman filed an affidavit setting forth Mohamud’s efforts to interfere with the deal Hopeman had worked out on behalf of Warsame. On the evening before Warsame was to plead guilty, Mohamud counseled Warsame “that all the defendants should stick together and go to trial, and if they did, good things would happen.” Hopeman, it should be noted, is a prominent and respected member of Minnesota’s defense bar. In his remarks to Judge Davis, Murad Mohammad told Judge Davis that he had emphatically warned Hassan Mohamud not to speak to defendants other than Farah. It was among the first points that Mohammad made.

“Sheikh Hasan” is a man of many hats and shenanigans. Yesterday he beat a strategic retreat. That’s some “community leader” you’ve got there.

Judge Davis is using the biggest courtroom in the federal courthouse for hearings and for the trial scheduled in these cases, yet it’s still not big enough to accommodate the large contingent of family members and others who turn out for hearings in the case to support the defendants. The courtroom was packed yesterday. Judge Davis uses his own assigned courtroom two floors below for overflow. When I turned up there yesterday looking for the hearing, a DHS agent had a dog sniffing the corridor for bombs.

The Star Tribune’s Stephen Montemayor reports on the hearing here; the AP’s Steve Karnowski reports on the hearing here. Karnowski advises AP readers that they shouldn’t get too worked up about the whole “jihad” thing. Karnowski writes: “Muslims typically define [jihad] broadly as struggle.” Sorry, Steve, but you have no warrant to say that.

Karnowski and other reporters sought out Mohamud following the hearing, but he was uncharacteristically tactful. He wasn’t talking; he referred reporters to Nwaneri. Karnowski, however, found Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who advised him that prosecutors had misconstrued jihad as meaning “holy war.” Hussein added: “It’s clear that the U.S. attorney’s office has used anti-Islamic tactics to undermine a good defense for this man.”

UPDATE: I should have noted Muktar Ibrahim’s story (with Laura Yuen) for Minnesota Public Radio previewing and reporting on the hearing.

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