For men accused of trying to join Islamic State, Minnesota trial nears end

Reuters News
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Posted: May 31, 2016 7:03 AM

By David Bailey

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - The federal jury trial of three Somali-American men from Minnesota accused of trying to help Islamic State militants and fight with the group in Syria was nearing its end, with closing arguments set for Tuesday.

Mohamed Farah, Abdirahman Daud and Guled Omar are charged with conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State and commit murder outside the United States, charges that could result in a life sentence for each if they are convicted.

In all, prosecutors brought similar charges against 10 men they said were part of a group of extended family and friends who sometimes took classes on Islam together, hung out and also planned to go overseas to fight for the militants the United Stats has designated a terror group.

Farah, Daud and Omar are the only three to face trial in U.S. District Court in Minnesota. Six others pleaded guilty to providing material support to Islamic State, and a seventh member of the group is believed to be in Syria.

The trial has exposed tensions in the Minnesota Somali community, where some believe the men were entrapped.

Prosecutors offered testimony from two dozen witnesses, plus audiotaped conversations to support charges that the defendants planned extensively to travel to Syria and fight with Islamic State, and talked openly of killing people.

They also played videos of Islamic State militants killing prisoners with handguns and knives, which a group member turned FBI paid informant and witness testified they had viewed.

Farah and Daud did not present any witnesses. Omar took the stand, testifying in part that his taped conversations were boasts or taken out of context.

Defense attorneys said in opening statements the Islamic State videos were repugnant and the defendants made inflammatory remarks, but said the government lacked sufficient evidence to prove the men intended to travel to Syria and fight for Islamic State.

Along with the conspiracy counts, Farah and Daud are charged with perjury, and Farah with making a false statement to FBI agents. Omar is also charged with attempting to use $5,000 in federal student aid to fund travel to Syria.

Prosecutors have said the larger group met multiple times from March 2014 to April 2015 at various locations and agreed to travel to Syria to join Islamic State and fight. Some group members attempted to leave the country in May 2014, November 2014 and in April 2015, they said.

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)