MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - His recordings are from mosques, restaurants, homes and cars. They are sometimes very hard to make out, the voices speaking very quickly, the audio at times distant or scratchy.
The jury, the attorneys and the defendants listen on headphones, reading along on transcripts, the recordings constantly stopped so the man on the witness stand can explain what they are hearing - the context of the conversations.
Friday morning, Abdirahman Bashiir spent a few more hours on the stand before court recessed for the weekend at the lunch break. As the confidential informant, his recordings are a centerpiece to the government’s case against three men on trial for charges related to ISIS.
To prosecutors, solid proof of active plotting. To friends and family, evidence of a man trying to save his own skin, leading others into a trap to please the FBI.
Guled Omar, Abdirahman Daud and Mohammad Farah stand trial for charges accusing them of conspiring to join ISIS and to commit murder abroad. Six of their friends, arrested as part of a larger group of young Somali men in the Twin Cities, have already taken plea deals.
In the portions played by prosecutors, much of the talking is being done by Guled Omar, often about ISIS and jihad. In one case, a conversation about Al-Shabab potentially joining forces. “If they pledge allegiance, ISIS is going to be the strongest Mujahideen on Earth,” he says.
In another conversation, he speaks about friends who’ve died fighting with ISIS and laments they weren’t able to join them in May 2014, when an alleged attempt was foiled by Omar’s family. “If all of us were available,” Omar says about had they all fought together, “we would have done some crazy ass damage.”
But friends and family of the men believe this is nothing more than teenagers talking. They believe the actual doing, the attempt to buy fake passports, would not have happened had the Bashiir not set that up with the FBI.
“The question my community is asking is this,” says Sadik Warra, a community activist. “What was the role of CHS? If he was not involved, the CHS, does this case materialize?”
CHS is short for Confidential Human Source, the term for Bashiir’s role.
When it is pointed out that some of the men actually made attempts to leave the country before Bashiir began working for the FBI, family members still believe the government is responsible for pushing the men to extremes.
Abdi Farah, father of defendant Mohammed Farah, who was stopped at JFK in November 2014, says they had all been questioned and followed and the scrutiny only served to create a sour taste of the U.S. "So what do you think if somebody behind you?” says Farah. “They try to push these boys to go away from this country, that’s what I believe.”
The three defense attorneys get their chance to cross-examine Bashiir beginning on Monday.