“Minnesota men” go to trial

Over the past year the government has charged ten “Minnesota men” (i.e., Somali Minnesotans) with seeking to join ISIS. One of the ten is believed to have made it to Syria and is unavailable for trial. Six of the ten have pleaded guilty. This past October a grand jury added a charge of conspiracy to commit murder overseas to the original charge of lending material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Today the remaining three defendants — Hamza Ahmed, Mohamed Abdhamid Farah and Guled Ali Omar — are set for trial in federal court before Judge Michael Davis. I’ll be covering the trial for Power Line and the Weekly Standard.

I have written about the cases in the Weekly Standard articles “The threat from ‘Minnesota men'” and “Judging the ‘Minnesota men.” The second of the two articles reports on Judge Davis’s use of German social scientist Daniel Koehler to inform his sentencing of those who have pleaded guilty. Today’s Wall Street Journal attends to that aspect of the cases in “Judge tries new approach with terror defendants: Deradicalization” (the article should be accessible via Google here).

SheikhHassan These are important cases of national interest. They present case studies in the evolving terror threat we face at home. They open a window onto the local Somali community that is otherwise closed. They bring evidence of the local threat to the surface that is otherwise submerged in highly confidential law enforcement investigations. Courtesy of these cases, for example, we have already learned that there’s something about “community leader” Hassan “Jaamici” Mohamud, imam of the Minnesota Da’wah Institute in St. Paul (doing his thing in the photo at right).

Working as a legal assistant for one of the attorneys representing one of the defendants, Mohamud improperly meddled in the plea deal another of the defendants had worked out. He urged the defendants to stick together.

He is also discussed on one of the recordings of certain of the defendants’ discussions; his teaching of the battlefield prayer for jihad is cited. The prosecution’s intent to use this recording at trial prompted the withdrawal of the attorney and legal assistant/imam from the defense team. We’re going to want to keep an eye on this particular “community leader.”

Judge Davis anticipates a large turnout for the trial. In an order filed late last week, Judge Davis indicated that he has sought to arrange the use of an overflow courtroom each day to accommodate the crowd. Seating is first come, first serve. Official press credentials are required to take advantage of the space reserved for journalists covering the trial.

The proceedings in these cases attract a large number of Somali and other local supporters of the defendants. The proceedings also elicit the services of visibly well armed officers and bomb sniffing dogs of federal law enforcement agencies adding to the security that otherwise protects the court. You have to see it to believe. I’ll be seeing and believing it again early this morning.