Trial of 3 Minnesota ISIS recruits goes to jury

- After a final closing argument from the last of three defense attorneys and a short rebuttal from a federal prosecutor, the jury now has the case in a nearly month-long terror trial in which three Minnesota men are accused of trying to join the terror group ISIS.

Mohamed Farah, Abdirahman Daud and Guled Omar are charged with 10 counts in total; Farah and Omar with five each and Daud with four.

All three face the most serious charges, which are conspiring to provide material support to a terror group and conspiracy to commit murder outside the United States. Farah and Daud are also charged with perjury and Omar with attempted financial aid fraud, alleging that he took out a college loan for no other reason than to fund travel to Syria.

In his closing argument on behalf of Omar, attorney Glenn Bruder argued that much of the government’s case is based on fear. He told jurors that violent ISIS propaganda videos that evidence shows the men watched play on that fear, that there’s “no way to defend those videos. They’re distasteful and they’re awful to watch. But it’s not a crime to do so. That’s the reality.”

He used the same argument about messages the men sent to each other and to friends who were already fighting with ISIS in Syria. Just because they used encrypted messaging apps doesn’t mean they had anything to hide.

“It’s only your fear that appears to make it suspect or a crime,” he told jurors. “All this information panders to your fear of terrorism or national security.”

He also argued that if jurors believe the men were trying to join ISIS in Syria, there’s no proof that they intended to kill anyone, taking on the most serious charge.  In the recorded conversations of the defendants, in which they talk often about going to Syria and achieving martyrdom, Bruder argues there’s no expectation they would be fighters. They could work in the oil fields or drive supply trucks.

And he attacked the credibility of the FBI”s paid informant, who admitted his own intentions and attempts to travel to Syria. He had “119,000 reasons to lie to you -- that’s what the government paid him for his assistance.”

All three defense attorneys said all the talk about trying to get to Syria was simply teenage boys being boastful, not proof of intentions.

During the government’s rebuttal of all three defense statements, Assistant US Attorney Julie Allyn took on all three defendant’s cases individually. 

Attacking the claim that Farah may have wanted to go to Syria, but there’s no proof he intended to join ISIS, she showed jurors a long list of time he contacted friends fighting with ISIS, a book and video he watched that were about ISIS and a conversation he had about Kobani, the site of a significant battle in Syria involving ISIS.

On Daud’s attorney’s claims of entrapment by the FBI in a fake passport sting in San Diego, and that it doesn’t prove Daud had intention to use them, Allyn pointed to instructions found on an iPod connected to Daud that contained instructions on how to get to Syria once they left the United States. “It’s Daud’s connections, Daud’s words,” she said, “that gets them into Syria to be ISIL fighters.”

As for Omar, she told jurors “everything he told you in his testimony was a lie.”  Omar was the only one of the three defendants to testify in his own defense.  She also showed jurors a list of times in recorded conversations he referenced fighting or using weapons.

“This boasting thing that all these defense attorneys are talking about,” Allyn told jurors, “it’s not boasting or bragging when you take actions.”  And the evidence, she stressed, is they all took actions to get to Syria for over a year before their arrests.

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