Unpack this

Star Tribune reporter Stephen Montemayor decries the lack of “help” in prison for the malady that resulted in the incarceration of Zacharia Abdurahman, one of the nine “Minnesota men” convicted of conspiring to join ISIS in Syria. Zacharia pleaded guilty, but he is a hard case. He declined to cooperate in the prosecution of his friends proceeded who went to trial.

Judge Michael Davis sentenced Abdurahman to ten years in prison. Montemayor treats Abdurahman as some kind of a victim in “After prison, will Minnesota’s ISIS defendants come out better or worse?”

I covered the trial and sentencing of the “Minnesota men” along with Montemayor. Whenever he expounds on the case Montemayor seems to me lost in a cloud of unknowing, of misplaced sympathy and of mind-numbing euphemism. This article has a little bit of all of them. As always, a little goes a long way.

The offense to which Abdurahman pleaded guilty derived from his devotion to Islam. He and his friends conspired at various mosques and elsewhere around the Twin Cities to make their way to ISIS, to live under the caliphate declared by ISIS’s leader and to wage jihad against the unbelievers. They longed to fight and die on behalf of Islam.

Beyond a reference to “extremism,” Montemayor never gets around to specifying Abdurahman’s problem. If a newspaper article could be void for vagueness, like a criminal statute, Montemayor’s article would be declared unconstitutional. According to Montemayor, Abdurahman needs “targeted services to unpack what attracted him to terrorism and guide him away from extremist views.”

Hmmm, what might that be? Whatever it is, according to Mantemayor, it seems to be nothing an imam or two shouldn’t be able to fix. At least Montemayor doesn’t nominate the imam I wrote about in “A tale of five Muhammads.” The imam was removed from the defense team on which he served as a legal assistant for an attorney representing one of the defendants when the prosecutors cited the imam’s alleged instruction in the battlefield prayer for jihad as it appeared on undercover recordings of defendants. At the hearing Judge Davis called on the matter, the imam and the attorney for whom he worked resolved the issue by withdrawing from the defense.

As a result of the hearing called in response to the prosecutors’ notice regarding the evidence, we learned that the imam had sought to persuade one of the defendants who was not his client against pleading guilty in the deal his attorney had worked out for him. On the evening before this other defendant was to plead guilty, the imam counseled the other defendant “that all the defendants should stick together and go to trial, and if they did, good things would happen.” This legal assistant/imam holds down the fort at the Da’wah institute in St. Paul, where he is presented as an Islamic community leader.

As I say, I covered the sentencing of Abdurahman and his co-conspirators by Judge Davis in November last year. Judge Davis has handled all the Somali terrorism cases here in federal court over the past ten years. He has taken the cases to heart and sought an answer to them. If there were an answer to the problem that Montemayor circles around in his article, Judge Davis would have taken account of it.

Short of such an answer, Judge Davis told the truth as he saw it at the sentencing hearings. I quoted him in my Weekly Standard article on the sentencings:

“I have traveled the world trying to figure out what to do with this jihadist behavior,” he said. “Terrorists and their supporters should be incapacitated for a long period of time.” His pronouncements were aimed variously at the defend­ants’ families and the broader Somali community, the defendants’ supporters, and Minnesotans generally. “This community needs to understand there is a jihadist cell in this community. Its tentacles spread out. Young people went to Syria and died,” he said at one hearing. “You’re dealing with a terrorist organization that’s the most dangerous this world has ever seen,” he declared at another. “Our own community won’t even live up to it and understand that what is happening is something that must be prosecuted.”

In my view, Montemayor and his colleagues at the Star Tribune are a part — a big part — of the problem that Judge Davis called out in his comments.

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