Minnesota women convicted of helping fund Somali group

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 20, 2011 3:28 PM
Minnesota women convicted of helping fund Somali group

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - A federal jury convicted two Somali-born Minnesota women on Thursday of raising money for al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab rebels after the U.S. designated the Somali organization a terror group.

Amina Farah Ali and Hawo Mohamed Hassan, both naturalized U.S. citizens, were found guilty on multiple charges over accusations of raising more than $8,600 for al-Shabaab from September 2008 to July 2009.

Ali, 35, and Hassan, 64, who both lived in Rochester, Minnesota, were accused of communicating with al-Shabaab individuals in Somalia and in turn going door-to-door in Somali communities in the state to raise money and holding teleconferences to solicit support.

Jurors deliberated into a third day morning before reaching the verdict in the trial before Chief Judge Michael Davis.

The United States designated al-Shabaab, which has been waging a four-year insurgency against Somalia's Western-backed government troops and African Union peacekeepers, as a terrorist group in February 2008.

Ali and Hassan were convicted of conspiring with each other and others to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. Ali was also convicted of 12 counts of providing material support to such an organization and Hassan on charges of making false statements to investigators.

Ali faces up to 15 years in prison on each conviction. Hassan faces up to 15 years in prison on the conspiracy conviction and up to 8 years in prison on each of the false statement convictions. No sentencing dates have been set.

The defendants denied raising money for the group, saying the funds were intended for the poor and needy. Prosecutors accused Ali of saying on two conference calls that the priority was support for Muslim mujahideen fighters or for jihad, not the needy.

Some 18 people have been charged in Minnesota in an investigation into efforts to recruit Americans to train or fight in Somalia. At least two Minnesota men are thought to have died in Somalia fighting for al-Shabaab.

Ali could face up to 100 additional days in jail after being cited for contempt 20 times for refusing to stand when court sessions began or recessed earlier in October. Each citation called for an additional five days in jail. Ali cited religious grounds for refusing to stand.

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)