A federal judge in Minneapolis is considering whether to remove one or more members of a defense team in the ISIL recruitment cases before him after prosecutors cited evidence that one of the men was “apparently preaching about jihad and related topics.”
U.S. District Judge Michael Davis has ordered a hearing Friday to determine whether there are grounds to disqualify anyone representing Mohamed Farah, one of five co-defendants scheduled to stand trial on charges of conspiring to murder abroad and providing material support to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
According to Davis’ order, filed Monday, the government informed Farah on Friday that it planned to introduce testimony and evidence at trial in which a member of Farah’s defense team, Sheikh Hassan Ali Mohamud Jami, is mentioned preaching about jihad. Mohamud is not a licensed attorney but has held an advisory role on the team.
Davis ordered prosecutors to file a motion and supporting documents by Tuesday as to whether there are grounds to disqualify Mohamud, or Farah’s attorneys Murad M. Mohammad and P. Chinedu Nwaneri. All defendants in the case have until Thursday to file responses of their own. Others still awaiting trial include Farah’s brother Adnan Farah, Hamza Ahmed, Abdirahman Daud and Guled Ali Omar.
Mohamud said Monday that the description of the evidence was vague, adding that jihad is indeed preached in Islam but not in connection with killing innocent people.
“We don’t believe jihad is killing civilians. We don’t believe jihad is disrupting the lives of normal people,” Mohamud said. “It is protecting innocent people who are now struggling in Syria, those who are helpless and who [President] Bashar [Assad] is now slaughtering.”
Mohamud became the first Somali-American to graduate from a Minnesota law school when he received a juris doctor degree from what was then the William Mitchell College of Law in 2002, according to a website for Nwaneri’s law firm.
Mohamud is also the chairman of the Minnesota Da’wah Institute, is an adjunct professor at both the Islamic University of Minnesota and the Mitchell Hamline School of Law and has served on advisory boards, including that of the Minneapolis Police Department.
Last month, Mohamud was uninvited from a behind-the-scenes security tour with about 50 imams and other members of the Muslim community at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. He has said he believed that action came in response to his critiques of Minnesota’s federal pilot project aimed at stemming terror recruitment.
Sadik Warfa, a community leader who has served as a spokesman for some of the families of defendants in the ISIL cases, said that the news had Farah’s family members concerned but that they would wait until a decision from Davis to comment.
“This is a very challenging case and the family is looking forward to having a fair trial,” Warfa said. “And this new development is something that concerns them and worries them.”
Mohamud said disqualifying anyone from the team would be “a disruption of fairness to Mohamed Farah.”
Another attorney issue
Friday’s hearing will be the second recent debate over legal counsel before trial begins May 9.
Davis denied a request earlier this month by Ahmed to use a new attorney over concerns about the attorney’s track record and intentions.
The attorney, Mitchell Robinson, had previously been reprimanded by the Minnesota Supreme Court over his handling of two cases, including a Texas case in which his client had her sentence vacated after serving nine years in prison.
Robinson has said that Ahmed’s family sought his representation because they weren’t eager to go to trial and hoped he would negotiate a deal.
Jon Hopeman represents Zacharia Abdurahman, one of the 10 young Twin Cities men charged last year with plotting to go fight for ISIL. Abdurahman is one of four to have pleaded guilty to conspiracy.
But had he not, Hopeman said, Monday’s order would have prompted a response.
“If I were defending a case for a co-defendant and knew the government put in evidence that one of the lawyers in the case had participated in the conspiracy, I would be moving for his disqualification” or to sever his client from the case, Hopeman said.