“Minnesota men” ready for trial

Ten Somali Minnesotans (a/k/a “Minnesota men,” as they are called in the headlines) were charged with seeking to join ISIS in April 2015. The case is of national interest and obvious importance. In the Weekly Standard articles “The threat from ‘Minnesota men'” and “Judging the ‘Minnesota men'” I tried to persuade readers that attention must be paid.

The cases open a window onto the evolving security threat facing the United States. It lies at the intersection of Islam and immigration. Developments in social media amplify the threat. The Democrat/media complex obscures and minimizes it.

Six of the ten “Minnesota men” have pleaded guilty; one of the ten is deceased or at large. Most recently, on Monday, Hamza Ahmed pleaded guilty to one count of supporting a foreign terrorist organization. Sentencing of the six men is pending a report from the German social scientist I wrote about in the second of the two Weekly Standard articles.

Three of the “Minnesota men” are scheduled to proceed to trial on May 9 before Judge Michael Davis. On Tuesday I attended the pretrial hearing. Judge Davis heard argument on a few issues of evidence and trial protocol that concealed the drama of these cases.

The government has a strong case. Thus the guilty pleas entered so far. The strength of the case can be seen in part in the FBI affidavits filed in support of the charges against the ten men. One of the “Minnesota men” in the circle of the ten defendants turned and became a confidential source for the FBI. In early 2015 he wore a wire and recorded conversations that will be used against those proceeding to trial.

In one of his pretrial rulings Judge Davis rejected the defense of combatant immunity that had been raised by defendants in connection with the charge of conspiracy to commit murder outside the United States, one of the two charges against them. Defendants had sought the dismissal of the charge, arguing that since the ISIS engages in combat, its members should have combatant immunity.

The doctrine of combatant immunity protects soldiers from being prosecuted for lawful acts committed during war. Judge Davis has held it doesn’t apply because the group is a designated terrorist organization and the men are charged in the context of terrorist activities. MPR’s Mukhtar Ibrahim reported on Judge Davis’s ruling on this point here.

The defendants seek to present themselves as motivated by concern over the fate of their Muslim brothers in Syria. The sought to defend others. Their intentions were supposedly beneficent. What’s jihad got to do with it?

Judge Davis hammered his ruling home with defense attorney Bruce Nestor at the pretrial hearing. “I’m shutting the door on this,” he stated. He emphasized: “This is not a political trial.” He urged counsel to read the Eighth Circuit decision affirming his handling of the Omar case.

He’s not going to give defendants room to roam on this point. He pointed to the door and threatened to throw Nestor out of court if he failed to comply with his ruling. He even extracted a pledge from Nestor to abide by his order.

The filings in the case are like the tip of an iceberg. More than ninety percent of the case is submerged in investigative materials that have been turned over by the government to defense counsel but have not been made public. The case is full of loose threads, such as the pathetic state of security at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Another such loose thread is the possible Mexican connection for travel and money. Reading the FBI affidavits, I have been unable to figure out if it had a genuine basis in the case or was a fabrication of the FBI’s confidential source. One of the defendants spoke of bringing the jihad back to the United States by reverse engineering their travel to Syria.

In one of the prosectors’ memos filed earlier this month in advance of the hearing, the Mexican connection appears: “[T]he idea to drive to California, obtain fake passports, then cross into Mexico to then fly into Istanbul in April of 2015 was borne, in part, out of [Hamza] Ahmed’s and his three November 8th travel companion’s [sic] failure to accomplish the goal of the conspiracy by flying from the US out of JFK using their own [comma omitted] real passports.”

Where did the “Minnesota men” acquire the resources to fund false documents and terrorist travel? Inquiring minds want to know. There is more reason than one to hope that the remaining cases proceed to trial.

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