A 19-year-old Minneapolis woman indicted this week on terrorism support charges made a brief first appearance Thursday in federal court, where a judge ordered her to remain in custody upon requests from prosecutors.
Tnuza Jamal Hassan will be arraigned on the new federal charges — which also include arson and making false statements to FBI agents — on Feb. 12, at which time a detention hearing has also been scheduled.
Hassan was arrested Jan. 17 after allegedly setting a series of small fires on the campus of St. Catherine University in St. Paul, where she attended classes until last fall. Hassan told police that she wanted to burn the school down and hurt people in retaliation for U.S. military actions overseas. She also allegedly wrote a March 2017 letter encouraging classmates to “join the jihad in fighting” and to join “Al-Qaida, Taliban, or Al Shabaab,” according to Wednesday’s indictment returned by a federal grand jury.
Hassan allegedly lied to FBI agents when asked about the letter in September 2017, and the three-page indictment also accused Hassan of attempting to provide material support to Al-Qaida by trying to offer “personnel.” Though the indictment specified a Sept. 19, 2017, date for that offense, it does not describe how she allegedly tried to provide support to terrorists. In remarks to police last month, Hassan described quitting school last fall because she planned to vacation with family in Ethiopia.
On Thursday, three family members watched as U.S. marshals led Hassan, shackled and wearing a black dress with garb that concealed all but her eyes, into the courtroom. She spoke softly when questioned briefly by U.S. Magistrate Judge David Schultz as he confirmed that she retained private counsel in the case.
Hassan’s attorney, Robert Sicoli, later told Schultz that Hassan is a U.S. citizen.
After Thursday’s hearing, Sicoli declined to comment at this stage of the prosecution. Sicoli, a veteran Minneapolis attorney, has represented multiple past clients charged in federal terrorism cases in recent years. He spoke at length privately with Hassan’s family after her appearance in court, and family members later declined to comment as they left the Minneapolis federal courthouse.
Federal agents and officials from the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services office — responsible for the district’s “terrorism disengagement and deradicalization program” — also packed half of the courtroom gallery for Hassan’s appearance on Thursday.
Hassan is also still being charged with first-degree arson in Ramsey County, and she is scheduled to appear in Ramsey County District Court for a Feb. 28 omnibus hearing. A spokesman with the Ramsey County attorney’s office said the state case will remain active but the federal case will take precedence.