A Minneapolis man charged with plotting to leave the country to fight alongside terrorists in Syria will remain behind bars pending trial, while his mother continued to deny that she and her family had any knowledge about her sons’ plans.
Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis denied bail for Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, 21, ruling Thursday that he still poses a flight risk based on his two previous attempts to leave the country.
The judge’s order followed more than an hour of arguments between federal prosecutors, who say Farah is a member of a Somali-American conspiracy dating to March 2014 that includes two separate attempts to travel overseas to join ISIL, and Farah’s defense attorney, who counters that the alleged threats are merely an expression of anger following persistent surveillance by authorities. Farah’s brother, Adnan Abdihamid Farah, is among the seven men charged.
The hearing in federal court in Minneapolis also called into question exactly what Farah’s parents knew about their sons’ plans. Both parents denied in interviews that they knew of their sons’ alleged intent.
However, charging documents indicate that the parents kept Adnan Farah’s passport because Ayan Farah “was fearful he would disappear and they would ‘not know where [he] went.’ ”
During arguments, assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Winter characterized Mohamed Farah as potentially violent, referencing a recording by an FBI informant in which Farah said if he couldn’t get to Syria, he would “murder federal law enforcement officers,” according to authorities.
“If our backs are against the wall, I’m gonna go kill the one who punks me,” Farah allegedly said in the recording.
Referring to that comment, Winter said, “I think it’s very safe to say that at this moment in time the defendant’s back is against the wall.”
Simple desire to travel?
Farah’s attorney, P. Chinedu Nwaneri, said Farah’s threats against the agents were the results of his frustration.
“They become unduly scared because they are constantly followed to their school, to their homes — anywhere they are going,” Nwaneri said of Farah and the co-defendants. “They are mad.”
Nwaneri characterized Farah’s attempts to travel abroad as part of his desire to visit his homeland, an argument Davis quickly called into question.
“It’s kind of hard for me to believe they are going to go back somewhere else when this is where they were born,” Davis said of Farah, who like most of the men charged was born in the U.S.
When Nwaneri countered that they wanted to visit their parents’ country, Davis was skeptical.
“The last time I looked at a map, I don’t remember Syria being part of the great continent of Africa,” Davis said.
Winter characterized Farah as leading a local charge in recruitment for ISIL, “a staggeringly violent organization.”
“He’s not only trying to get himself over there, he’s trying to get other young men from this community in harm’s way,” Winter said.
Mother: ‘This stuff is fake’
Farah’s mother said before the hearing that she and her family had no idea he was about to leave the country — allegations made in multiple court documents.
“That’s not true,” Ayan Farah said shortly before her son’s hearing. “I don’t know [where it’s coming from].” Ayan also said in a sworn affidavit filed Thursday that she did not know of her son’s plans.
The government claims Farah told another alleged conspirator that in mid-April his mother knew of his impending plans to travel to Syria, according to the recordings made by a confidential informant, a friend of Farah’s who was working for the FBI.
“She knows where I’m going, bro, that’s the thing. …” Farah is quoted as telling co-defendant Abdirahman Daud. Later that day, Farah stated that he “didn’t believe his parents would report him missing after he was gone,” according to the motion that prosecutors filed arguing why he should not be released pending trial.
Farah’s grandmother also may have known of his plans, according to the transcripts. In a conversation recorded by the informant, two other defendants spoke about Farah’s family and the plans that the young men were making to leave the country. “His grandma told him, ‘We’ll give you $5,000 if you find a way out,’ ” according to a taped conversation that Guled Omar is said to have had with Zacharia Abdurahman back in March. Ayan Farah said it’s not true.
“My mother, she give $5,000? Where would my mother get $5,000?” Ayan Farah said Thursday before her son’s hearing started.
She also denied taking away the passport from one son, despite her statements in the criminal charges. “This stuff is fake,” she said.
In the hearing, Winter said the allegations of what Farah’s parents knew were in Farah’s own words.
“We’re simply stating what the defendant himself said,” Winter said.