Imam or attorney? Or both?

- Is a religious leader who has preached about jihad unable to serve on the legal team of young man facing terror charges? That’s the legal question facing Federal Judge Michael Davis, and lawyers are weighing in with a flurry of legal briefs filed Thursday.

Hassan Ali Mohamud is a local religious leader, and a legal scholar on Sharia law, who is part of the legal counsel for Mohamed Farah, one of five young men facing terror charges related to attempting to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS. Mohamud is a law school graduate, but is not a licensed attorney in Minnesota. Farah is also represented by two other lawyers. 

Last week, the U.S. Attorney requested that Imam Mohamud be removed from representing Farah because of a conflict of interest. In a brief filed Thursday, prosecutors say in a recording made by a confidential informant on May 9, 2015, a former co-defendant makes reference to “learning about prayer during jihad from a person identified in the recording as ‘Sheikh Hassan.’” The recording was transcribed in September, and only recently were defense attorney’s informed about the issue.

Defense attorneys have identified the former co-defendant in the recording as Abdirizak Warsame, who has already pled guilty to terror charges. Farah’s legal team requested that Warsame be brought from the Sherburne County Jail to federal court Friday so he could testify about precisely what he meant, but Judge Davis denied that request Thursday. 

Adding to the confusion, prosecutors have repeatedly referenced Hassan Mohamud in court documents as “Hassan Jami” or “Sheikh Hassan” or “Mr. Jami.” The defense team claims he sometimes is known by the nickname “Sheikh Xasan (Hassan) Jaamici.”

Prosecutors are offering that Farah could be represented by his other two attorneys, or that Farah’s case can be tried separately to give counsel more time to prepare the case. 

Attorneys for co-defendant Guled Omar are requesting that Hassan Mohamud be excluded from representing Farah, or alternatively, excluding the testimony or not identifying Mohamud as the person who made the statements. 

The hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday in Minneapolis federal court. The trial is scheduled for May 9.

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