MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - More questions about motivation - the lure of easy money and desperation to avoid prison - loomed large over an FBI informant's fifth and final day on the witness stand in a federal terror trial of three Minnesota men.
Abdirahman Bashiir first stepped into the stand last Wednesday. Much of his questioning a very slow and methodical trip through parts of his secret recordings. Nearly a week later, his final few hours on the stand were a rapid fire assault from defense attorneys on how much he made and how much he pushed.
Abdirahman Daud, Guled Omar and Mohamed Farah are all on trial for conspiring to commit murder abroad and conspiring to provide support to a terrorist organization. Six others arrested at various times as part of the same over-arching plot to travel to Syria were offered and accepted plea deals.
“Were you supposed to encourage illegal activity?” was one of the pointed questions shot Bashiir’s way by attorneys looking to paint him as the ensnarer. “I was given permission to do illegal activity,” Bashiir replied calmly, his demeanor barely ever changing, never seeming to lose his temper as questioning heated up.
Asked if he was given permission to encourage the defendants to buy fake passports, suggesting he was instructed to push these men into an trap, he testified “the idea was already there,” referring to longstanding talks to get fake passports. “I had permission to come in and say I found a guy. I don’t think that’s encouraging.”
But when asked about his instructions when the group began to have second thoughts and wanted to wait, Bashiir said he was "instructed to say no, don’t delay. Let’s go on that day.”
On re-direct questioning by the assistant US Attorney, Bashiir clarified that attempts to get fake passports had been talked about long before he became in informant, that it wasn’t an idea hatched by the FBI.
Bashiir also got grilled more on the $119,000 in payments from the government for his help. He admitted that he was given $4,000 at the end of April, just before the trial began.
On redirect, the prosecutor addressed some of those numbers, too, clarifying that a big part of the payout was covering the cost of a hotel room in California for several months while Bashiir essentially worked full time with agents transcribing his recordings.
Following Bashiir on the stand was the manager of a paintball facility in Lakeville, who testified about many of the larger group coming several times to play, and how some of them had to be kicked out for their behavior. He specifically recalled kicking out Mohamad Farah for repeatedly violating safety rules.
And in October of 2014, he called both Lakeville police and the FBI about the group over complaints from other customers about things being stolen and things the men were saying that were disturbing other players.
A prosecutor asked what the men were saying that bothered customers, over the heresy objections by defense attorneys. The objection overruled, he replied they were shouting “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great” as they fired.
The prosecution is expected to rest on Wednesday. The defense plans to take about a day for their side of the case. The judge won’t let closing arguments begin until Tuesday, after the holiday weekend, so that they’re not interrupted.