Five Twin Cities men accused of plotting to leave the United States to fight alongside terrorists will now stand trial in May in the wake of a second, more serious indictment filed last month.
Each of the men again pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring to join the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) at a Monday hearing before federal Judge Michael Davis. Attorneys for the men said the new charges would require additional time to prepare for trial. Davis agreed, pushing the February trial to May 9.
In the meantime, Guled Omar, Hamza Ahmed, brothers Adnan and Mohamed Farah and Abdirahman Daud remain jailed pending trial.
The arraignment followed a broader, “superseding indictment” containing additional charges against some or all of the defendants, including perjury, financial aid fraud and conspiracy to commit murder abroad. The latter charge, often used against suspected jihadists, carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Supporters of the men have claimed the new charges are an attempt to pressure them into pleading guilty. Their families have repeatedly said they have rejected plea agreements offered by prosecutors in recent months, and vow to take the cases to trial.
Two other defendants, Zacharia Abdurahman and Hanad Musse, pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization. Another, Abdullahi Yusuf, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in February and has since agreed to testify for the government.
During the hearing, Davis also agreed to move Omar from the Ramsey County jail, where his family claimed they were turned away while trying to visit him. His mother, Fadumo Hussein, said her son was living under “inhumane” conditions. The U.S. Marshals Service, which oversees Omar’s detainment, said that he was placed in “administrative segregation” for his own protection 23 hours a day per the FBI’s behest.
In a letter filed in federal court, U.S. Attorney Andy Luger countered that Omar was moved because he may have tried to contact Yusuf, possibly to intimidate him for agreeing to testify against his friends.
Davis offered to move Omar to the Sherburne County jail, and Omar agreed. He, like the other defendants, is also allowed to travel to the federal courthouse on Wednesdays to review his case file.
Afterward, the men’s mothers flanked Sadik Warfa and Mohamud Hassan, community leaders who have served as spokesmen for the families. Warfa thanked Davis for agreeing to move Omar, and said they are going to trial in part to confront an informant crucial to the case.
“This is a very difficult case; it’s a terrorism case, but everybody is innocent until proven guilty,” Warfa said. “We believe justice will prevail.”