Solidarity with the Entrapped Somali 3

Solidarity with the Entrapped Somali 3

By Sophia Hansen-Day, Anti-War Committee member

June 26, 2016

On June 3rd, Mohamed Farah, Guled Omar, and Abdirahman Daud, three young Somali men entrapped by the FBI, were convicted by an all-white jury. Maintaining their innocence, the three courageously refused to take plea deals or cooperate with the government. Now they face convictions for material support for terrorism and conspiracy to commit murder abroad, which potentially carry life sentences. This has been a travesty of justice.

The cases against Mohamed, Guled, and Abdirahman were full of smokescreens and blatant lies.  These young men were essentially convicted for thought crimes and boasting. The case against them was built on conversations audio-recorded by former friend-turned-informant Abdirahman Bashir, the watching of ISIL propaganda videos by some of the defendants, and a fake passport plan hatched by the FBI.  Bashir was paid $119,000 for his services, his father was removed from the no fly list, and he has not faced any charges of his own despite repeatedly lying during grand jury testimony and himself maintaining communication with ISIL fighters and aiding in his cousin’s departure from the US.

While only three chose to stand trial, a total of nine young men were entrapped by the FBI, and all face serious convictions and potentially decades inside prison. These youth face charges for allegedly making plans to join Daesh, otherwise known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). After reading the criminal complaint against these entrapped men, Kamal Hasan, a relative of another young man who earlier in 2015 plead guilty to trying to enlist with Daesh/ISIL, shared: “When the families confiscated [the passports] and prevented them from traveling, the FBI offered them fake passports, offered to buy their cars so they could buy tickets and travel. To us, that means they [the FBI] are facilitating and helping these kids break the law.” Abdurahman Daud’s attorney, Bruce Nestor, said: “These young men did not conspire to commit murder or any act of violence. This is a political prosecution as part of the flawed U.S. war on terror.” Six of the nine took plea deals and were pressured to testify against the defendants in order to receive lighter sentences. Those who did plead out are still potentially facing 15 years in prison, while the remaining three potentially face life. A sentencing date has yet to be set by Judge Davis.

During the trial, attendees witnessed blatant discrimination against Somali community members.   Outspoken youth worker Berhan Mohamed was fingerprinted and escorted off the property in handcuffs when he attempted to resolve a community dispute.  Judge Davis pervasively sided with the government.  (Davis, himself, recently launched a “de-radicalization” program for Somali youth and visibly collected names throughout the trial in an eerily Orwellian manner.)  The Feds have also targeted community leaders in the process of charging these youth. Imam Hassan “Jaamici” Mohamud was hired by the defense for his expertise in Islamic law, but after the prosecution defamed his character and dangerously slandered his name in the media, he decided to remove himself so as not to further prejudice the defendants. The government pressured some of the entrapped youth to claim Imam Hassan preaches extremism, when in reality he is a respected leader in the community who preaches moderation. During the course of the trial, it became clear that the supposedly extremist imam in question was actually a different person, Hassan Hussein confirmed to be residing in Kenya, and not Imam Hassan Mohamud at all. As a religious and legal scholar, Imam Hassan Mohamud would have served as an invaluable asset to the defense with his knowledge of the US legal system, Islamic law, and Somali culture and the Arabic and Somali languages. The attack on him was simply another tactic the government used to isolate the community and delegitimize one of their leaders, and to deprive a defendant of key legal counsel.

Prior to the trial, Guled’s family was subjected to six SWAT-style house raids by FBI agents with flash bang grenades.  During at least one of these raids, Guled’s mother, a survivor of civil war in Somalia was physically assaulted and his baby siblings were handcuffed and made to lie with their faces to the ground. The primary breadwinners of the family lost their jobs because of this harassment and the family of 13 children (9 girls and 4 boys) and their single mother were homeless were six months after being kicked out by their landlord due to the repeated raids.

This case has served to further criminalize the Somali and Muslim community and justify federal funding for the FBI, DHS, and DOJ Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program. US Attorney Andrew Lugar is building his political career on targeting these youth in Minnesota. Of the 90 pending cases against defendants accused of terrorism in connection to ISIL across the United States, 40 have been completed. 35 defendants pled guilty before trial and the remaining 5 were all convicted by juries. The US public is buying the government’s lies in these cases, and defendants stand little chance of receiving a fair trial once the specter of terrorism is thrown before juries.

Minneapolis is one of three cities participating in CVE, which incentivizes teachers, guidance counselors, religious leaders, and public health workers to watch for “early indicators of extremism” and to notify law enforcement of potential targets.  Minneapolis Public Schools specifically hired people to watch Somali youth and to “spot identity issues and disaffection.”  In 2007 and 2009, intelligence gathering programs were framed as community outreach when, in reality, mosques and community centers were used as centers for surveillance. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, this intelligence was used to make a list of “radicalized youth” that was then kept on a police database shared with the FBI.  The Muslim and Somali community has taken a powerful stand against the racist and xenophobic CVE program, with over 50 Minnesota Muslim organizations having signed onto a statement that opposes the program, citing concerns of civil rights violations and discrimination.

The fervor with which these young men are being targeted and persecuted speaks to the government’s racism and islamophobia.  The law enforcement system repeatedly ignores violent crimes by white supremacist and right wing extremist organizations, while instead targeting oppressed communities. Three white supremacists shot five Black protesters outside the 4th precinct police station in North Minneapolis demanding justice for Jamar Clark, the young Black truck driver executed by the Minneapolis Police Department this past November. Despite clear evidence that their actions were premeditated, fueled by white-supremacist ideology, and that the assailants intended to kill Black protesters, the shooters are only facing felony charges of second-degree riot with a dangerous weapon and one of them, Scarsella, faces second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon. Despite posing an immediate threat to the safety of community members, only one is currently incarcerated and the Hennepin County Attorney’s office (the same office who failed to indict Jamar’s murderers) have allowed the defense to use stall tactics. On February 24th, a mosque in South Minneapolis named the Umatul Islam Center was vandalized by a white man in his 50s, causing over $5,000 in damages. The person arrested is the subject of over 170 police reports, and yet was only apprehended after significant community pressure and a visit to the mosque by Governor Dayton. Yet now, three young Somali men, who have already spent over a year in county jails awaiting trial, some in solitary confinement, who have never had any previous contact with the criminal injustice system, who were serving their communities and supporting their families, face serious convictions despite clear evidence of entrapment.

The Anti-War Committee was raided and targeted by the FBI in 2010, also for supposed material support of terrorism.  We have an intimate understanding of how the government seeks to scapegoat Arabs and Muslims, and in particular, the Somali community in Minnesota, and how they use fear and the specter of terrorism to try to divide communities and turn people against each other.  We helped found the Committee to Stop FBI Repression to defend itself and the anti-war movement from political repression.  We are a part of a national movement to defend activists from surveillance, entrapment, and criminalization.  We have worked on the cases of Carlos Montes, Rasmea Odeh, the Holy Land 5, the Somali women from Rochester Amina Ali and Hawo Hassan, and the cases of other Arab and Muslim leaders and activists.  We see these local cases of East African youth entrapment as an extension of our work nationally to defend our movement.

The case against Mohamed, Guled, and Abdirahman, is part of an ongoing organized attack against the Somali community facing rising levels of Islamophobia, xenophobia, racism and government repression. Since 9/11, the US government has targeted Muslim community members and manufactured terror cases to sow fear and distrust, to justify massive spending for the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, and to criminalize people whose homelands are being bombed by the US government and who speak out against US foreign policy.

We are asking everyone in the anti-war community to support our Somali brothers and their families. These young men are beloved sons, breadwinners, students, and friends. They all attended High School in South Minneapolis and played basketball regularly at Powderhorn Park. Their mothers Farhiyo, Ayan, and Fadumo showed tenacity and resilience throughout the trial. However, all three families are facing serious financial hardships from expensive legal costs, losing 4 weeks of work to attend court, discrimination in housing and employment, and from losing the income these young men contributed. We invite all to attend an upcoming fundraiser:

-Sunday, July 10th @6:00-8:30pm

-$20/ticket for entrance, with catered dinner provided and program

-Location: Safari Restaurant and Event Center, 2010 4th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55408

Organized by the Coalition to Defend the Muslim Community, under the leadership of Imam Hassan Jami of the Dawa’a Institute in Saint Paul

Join us as we stand with these youth, their families and community leaders! Fight Islamophobia and Defend the Muslim Community! Say No to CVE and the Criminalization of the Somali Community!