ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Minneapolis ISIL trial opens with tense scene between attorney and defendant

The federal trial of three Somali-American men accused of plotting to join ISIL began with a tense scene inside a Minneapolis courtroom Monday morning, just hours before jury selection was to begin.

The federal trial of three Somali-American men accused of plotting to join ISIL began with a tense scene inside a Minneapolis courtroom Monday morning, just hours before jury selection was to begin.

Mohamed Farah, 22, one of the three defendants, somberly stood next to his attorney, Mohammad Murad, who late last week asked to withdraw from the case because of a deep rift between him and the defendant’s family.
U.S. District Judge Michael Davis said defendants and attorneys “from the beginning of time” had disagreed on approaches to trial, but the issue was whether the two could communicate.
Farah - who will stand trial alongside Abdirahman Daud and Guled Omar - shook his head as Mohammad told Davis he still believed he could communicate with his client. Earlier Monday, Farah told Davis that Mohammad pressured him to plead guilty, saying his chances at trial were not good. “I swear to the court, he said Judge Davis will F you if you don’t agree to plead to conspiracy to commit murder charge,” Farah said.
But Davis reviewed a transcript of an April 1 hearing in which Farah’s other attorney, P. Chinedu Nwaneri, withdrew. During that hearing, Farah assured Davis that he was “100 percent” confident in Mohammad. Farah also said Monday that Mohammad did not share all of the evidence in the case with him, but Mohammad said it was Farah who declined offers to review evidence.
Davis eventually denied the motion from the attorney, who later told him he was still prepared to go to trial.
The proceedings broke at midday, with jury selection expected to begin after lunch.
FBI probe
The three defendants were caught up in a yearlong FBI investigation in the Twin Cities that produced one of the government’s most complex terror recruitment prosecutions. They are now charged with conspiracy to flee the United States and support ISIL and to commit murder abroad.
Daud, Farah and Omar are the final three remaining defendants from a circle of 10 young Somali-American men charged last year after the intensive FBI investigation. Six have pleaded guilty and another is a fugitive who reportedly made it into Syria to fight for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
The most serious charge, conspiracy to murder outside the United States, carries the possibility of life in prison.
The trial, just the third federal Isil-related case to reach a courtroom, is expected to last three weeks and draw a large local and national audience; previous hearings in the case have required overflow seating and a heavy law enforcement presence.
In briefs filed over the weekend, prosecutors said they expect to call 26 witnesses.
No suit
In a stark contrast with Daud and Omar, who each appeared in suits, Farah still wore his orange jail-issued T-shirt and pants when he appeared in court Monday morning.
During a break, Ayan Farah, Mohamed’s mother, said “I feel very sad.” When asked about whether she had any hope for the trial, she shook her head and pointed to the sky. “Only God … and Judge Davis.”
Before breaking for lunch, Davis asked Mohammad about Farah’s attire, and the attorney said Farah’s family had refused to provide clothing. Mohammad said he brought one of his suits, which didn’t fit Farah so he sent someone to purchase clothing before jury selection. Abdihamid Farah, the defendant’s father, said later that Mohammad was not telling the truth. He showed a text message from 7:32 p.m. Sunday: “I’m going to need some clarity: is somebody else that you know of providing clothing? Please advise immediate so … appropriate arrangements can be made.”
“It’s not fair. All we ask is for my son to get a (fair trial) and he’s not getting one. I’m nervous. I’m kind of crazy right now. Mohamed doesn’t have a lawyer.”
A small group of civil liberties advocates also showed up at the Minneapolis federal building Monday morning, carrying signs that read, “Free Our Sons” and “Free Our Entrapped Youth.”

Related Topics: CRIME
What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.