Nine young men, all between the ages of 19 and 22 at the time of their arrest, were convicted of “Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to a Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization” and sentenced last month in the federal court of Judge Michael Davis.
The group was referred to as a terrorist cell by Davis many times, as well as referring to this particular conspiracy as “fake it until you make it,” insinuating these young men didn’t know what they were doing.
As the largest ISIL conspiracy case ever, the outcome of this sentencing would create a precedent for future sentencing of American citizens who try to join ISIL or other foreign terrorist groups.
The sentencing included the showing of graphic ISIL recruitment videos to the court, the Judge requesting the children of the families under 16 leave the court room.
Monday, November 14
Abdullahi Yusuf, 20
The defendant got the lightest sentence of the nine. He was quick to plead guilty and cooperate with the FBI.
Judge Davis sentenced him to time served, with a year in a halfway house and 20 years probation. Yusuf had been detained for two years after being caught in the MSP airport by two FBI agents trying to flee the country for Syria.
In his final words to the judge, he said if he were to go to prison, he feared he would miss out on the work he had been doing with the help of mentors through the non-profit Heartland Democracy.
Davis said “This is so hard” before the sentencing.
Abdirazak Warsame, 21
Warsame who was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison.
He appeared on “60 minutes” in late October. Judge Davis called the appearance a “chess move” insinuating Warsame was playing a game the whole time.
Warsame responded by saying “I myself was manipulated.”
Both the defendant and his lawyers noted that he didn’t have any support from Heartland Democracy like co-defendant Yusuf did.
Zacharia Abdurahman, 21
Abdurahman is a former MCTC student and was sentenced, in the harshest sentencing of the day, to 10 years in prison. Judge Davis didn’t extend it to the full 15 that the prosecution was seeking, because Abdurahman’s family has been so outspoken about Somali youth and extremism.
Like the last two, Abdurahman plead guilty in September of last year and cooperated with the FBI.
“There’s not a lot I can say to you,” said Abdurahman, “but I can try to put you in my shoes.”
He went on to tell this story: while walking out of a McDonald’s, Aburahman said “a group of strangers spat on me and told me to go back where I came from.”
After sentencing Abdurahman said, “I’ll keep my head up. I will not let my family down and I will not let my community down.”
Tuesday, November 15
Hamza Ahmed, 21
Ahmed was an MCTC student who attempted to use his financial aid to travel to Syria and fight for ISIS. This added an additional charge to his record of Financial Aid Fraud.
He was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment and a lifetime of supervised release.
“I want you to understand I am not completely changed”, he told Judge Davis at his sentencing hearing, “I’m in the process but nobody changes overnight.”
Adnan Farah, 20
Farah was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Unlike his brother, Mohamed, also convicted of conspiracy, he pled guilty in April 2016, which significantly lowered his sentence. There were only four weeks left in his trial.
His mother wasn’t expecting his change of plea and according to several news sources, she collapsed in the court room and was rushed to the hospital causing a short recess in his case.
Hanad Musse, 21
Musse, another MCTC student studying liberal arts, was arrested with three of his friends, Abdurahman, Ahmed, and Mohammed Farah, after being caught by FBI agents at JFK airport.
He also allegedly used financial aid to fund his trip, adding another count to his conspiracy charge.
He did plead guilty in September 2015, which lead to his sentencing of 10 years imprisonment.
Wednesday November 16
Mohamed Farah, 22
Farah was also a student at MCTC.
Some claimed that an Imam from a St. Paul Mosque, Hassan Mohamud, encouraged the young men to go to trial and not to plead guilty. This may or may not have been a factor in Farah’s decision to go to trial.
Farah was first arrested in San Diego with AbdirahmanDaud in April of 2015.
He was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment with lifetime supervised release.
Abdirahman Daud, 22
Daud, an MCTC student, was arrested in April 2015 after trying to purchase fake passports from an undercover FBI agent with co-defendent Farah.
He, along with his eight co-defendants, was unknowingly being recorded by Abdirahman Bashir, a former ISIL hopeful turned FBI informant for $119,000.
Bashir recorded him saying things like “how to fake the government,” and that he hoped to get an AK-47 in Syria to kill Shiites.
Daud was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment with lifetime supervised release.
Guled Omar, 22
“You can’t fix deceitful,” said the prosecution in the sentencing hearing of Omar, “and you can’t fix Guled Omar. He has blood on his hands.”
His brother, Ahmed Omar, left to fight for terrorist group al-Shabab in Somalia in 2007.
Omar, another MCTC student, received the harshest sentence of the group, 35 years imprisonment.
At his sentencing, Guled said, “I always had energy for justice as a young man but I lost my way.”
Rally and Press Conference
Immediately following Omar’s sentencing a rally was held outside the courthouse.
The leaders of the rally, as well as most of the attendees, were Somali-American youth. They claimed that the FBI is guilty of entrapment, and that Judge Davis’ personal bias influenced his sentencing.
The participants held signs with slogans like “Free Entrapped Youth,” and “Thought is not Terrorism.”
It’s clear that the Somali community in Minnesota, the biggest in the country, felt persecuted by the sentencing.