The Star Tribune | 2 Rochester women guilty of aiding Somali terror group

Posted on October 20, 2011 by The Star Tribune

By Allie Shah

A federal jury Thursday convicted two Rochester women of conspiring to help an Al-Qaida affiliate in their native Somalia under the guise of raising money for the poor.

A federal jury Thursday convicted two Rochester women of conspiring to help an Al-Qaida affiliate in their native Somalia under the guise of raising money for the poor.

Amina Farah Ali, 35, and Hawo Mohamed Hassan, 64, were the first people to go on trial in connection with a sweeping federal investigation into alleged recruitment and fundraising activities in Minnesota for Al-Shabab — classified by U.S. authorities in February 2008 as a foreign terrorist organization.

Under U.S. law, it is illegal to support a foreign terrorist group.

Both were found guilty on all counts.

Al-Shabab and other militia groups are fighting a United Nations-backed transitional federal government in Somalia’s long-running civil war.

Prosecutors said Ali and Hassan were part of a “deadly pipeline” that supplied money and fighters from the United States to Somalia. They said from September 2008 through July 2009, the women conspired to provide material support to Al-Shabab, knowing it was considered a terrorist group.

Lawyers for Ali and Hassan, however, said that their clients did not know about the designation and were sincere in their efforts to help the needy back in Somalia. As survivors of war themselves, and as religious women, they felt compelled to aid those still struggling in Somalia, the defense argued.

Both Ali and Hassan, who are U.S. citizens, were charged with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

Ali also faced 12 counts of providing support for allegedly sending more than $8,600 to Al-Shabab from September 2008 through July 2009.

Additionally, Hassan was charged with lying to FBI agents.

Ali also could face jail time for contempt for her refusal to stand in the courtroom, citing religious reasons. U.S. Chief Judge Michael Davis ordered her jailed five days for every time she refused, a tally that reached 100 days before Ali decided to stand.

Each terrorism count carries a 15-year maximum prison sentence, while lying to the FBI carries an eight-year maximum sentence.

Allie Shah • 612-673-4488

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