Prosecutors point to phone records for ISIS conspiracy

- Phone records

Prosecutors are trying to prove a conspiracy.  And on day eight of the federal trial of three Minnesota men accused of trying to join ISIS, the proof came in a stack of spider graphs and bar graphs and phone records linking them by calls and texts.

Mohamed Farah, Abdirahman Daud and Guled Omar, charged with conspiring to commit murder abroad and provide support to a terrorist organization, glanced through their own copies of the documents as they sat at the defense table. 

“We’re looking for spikes in contact between (the co-conspirators) and in this case the drop off in contact,” testified Detective Patrick Clark, a Hennepin County investigator who is part of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The records are important not only to prove a conspiracy, but also to show that the defendants lied to cover it up.  In addition to the three men on trial, six other alleged co-conspirators already pled guilty.

“The four that traveled to New York to fly out of JFK maintained they didn’t know each other,” said Clark.  But phone records show contacts building in the two days before they took a bus to New York City, none the day they were on the bus together, then spiking again the next day when they traveled home.

The records of Abdi Nur, who successfully flew out of MSP in late May 2014, also show multiple contacts with all three of the defendants in the two weeks before he left.  Nur hasn’t been heard from since late 2014 and is believed to have been killed in Syria.

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Limiting videos

Defense attorney Bruce Nestor, representing Daud, filed a notion Wednesday morning to limit the ISIS recruiting videos that are shown to the jury.  Many of them show horrific acts committed by ISIS fighters against Syrian solders.  Nestor argues that the jury should only see videos that prosecutors can prove the defendants watched. 

“Government expert witness Charles Lister testified that during 2014 and 2014, ISIL would produce up to 18 different videos and media releases per day, or approximately 125 per week<‘ he writes in the motion.  “Over the course of the alleged conspiracy, that total could be as much as 6,500 different videos and media releases from ISIL.”

The judge has not yet ruled on the motion.

Confidential Informant

It is expected that the government’s confidential informant, Abdirahman Bashiir, will take the stand sometime yet this afternoon.  Much of the evidence against the defendants came from Bashiir, who agreed to wear a wire.

Defense attorneys said in their opening statements that Bashiir was highly motivated to get himself out of trouble with the government, since he was also initially plotting to go to Syria.  His testimony is expected to take several days and become contentious as defense attorneys are expected to question if he pushed these men to do things the otherwise would not in order to make his own situation better.

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