Day 13: Emotional Day in Court Ends, Prosecution Expected to Rest Case Thursday

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Thursday May 26, 2016
By Jennie Lissarrague


5 p.m. Minneapolis FBI Agent Testifies about 2012 Interviews with Omar

The 23rd witness called in a Minnesota terrorism-related trial was Jeffrey Moniz, who is a special agent with the Minneapolis FBI. Moniz testified about two separate interviews with defendant Guled Omar in 2012.

The first interview took place on Aug. 17, 2012, at Omar’s home on the 3500 block of Columbus Avenue in Minneapolis.

Two days before that interview, Omar attempted to fly to Kenya but was turned away because he was on a “no-fly” list because his brother was fighting with al-Shabab, which is a designated terrorist organization in Somalia.

Omar claimed he was going to visit his two uncles in Kenya, who were going to introduce him to a girl he said he was going to marry. According to Omar’s travel document presented in court, he had claimed he was going to Ethiopia for three months.

Moniz said they believe Omar was trying to join al-Shabab.

A second follow-up interview then took place on Aug. 30, 2012, also at Omar’s home. Omar again stated he had been trying to go to Kenya to visit his uncles.

In that interview, Omar said he was “100 percent against al-Shabab” and what his brother was doing, according to Moriz’s testimony.

Before the testimony, the jury was read a statement telling them to decide for themselves if the evidence seemed relevant; they were reminded that Omar is only on trial for his alleged attempt to join the Islamic State and was not charged in the 2012 incident.

Court wrapped up for the day at 5 p.m. and will continue at 9:30 a.m. Thursday. The prosecution is expected to rest its case in the morning.

4:30 p.m. Defense Attorney Focuses on Defendant’s ‘Boasts’

Abdirizak Warsame has finished his testimony in the trial of three Somali-Minnesotan men accused of trying to travel to Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State group.

Warsame, who has already pleaded guilty in the case, has been testifying against 21-year-old Guled Omar, 22-year-old Abdirahman Daud and 22-year-old Mohamed Farah since Tuesday.

Omar’s attorney, Glenn Bruder, started his cross-examination by emphasizing that people in Warsame’s friend group would sometimes boast about things they weren’t really serious about, referencing Warsame’s claim that he could build a rocket that would bring down an airplane and Bashir’s boast that he could get his hands on an AK-47.

“Did you ever see Mr. Bashir with an AK-47?” Bruder asked.

“No,” Warsame answered.

Warsame also acknowledged that the group would sometimes “chastise” Omar for his boasts.

Bruder then again referenced an April 2015 secretly-recorded conversation between Omar and Warsame, which was previously played in court and showed Warsame urging Omar to go to Syria.

“Are you stressing over the choices?” Warsame asked Omar in the audio. “If you’re tired of stressing, then just know that whenever you submit yourself to Allah’s plans, there’s always going to be a test, bro. This is an easier test than going over there and every day trying to get Shahada [martyred] but you don’t get it.”

In his testimony Wednesday, Warsame again said Omar was talking about how he was going through problems with his family.

“He wasn’t sure of whether it was worth getting sent back again,” Warsame said. “Another reason was that he said his mom was going through a hard time and she needed him and it would be better for him to stay and help his mom and siblings.”

“Did you question Mr. Omar’s commitment at that time?” Bruder asked.

“Yes, I did,” Warsame answered.

Bruder then asked Warsame about his views on what a “legitimate jihadist organization” was.

“When you saw the video of ISIS fighters executing unarmed individuals, did that strike you as something a legitimate jihadist organization would do?” Bruder asked.

“Yes,” Warsame said. “At that time, I believed that the people who were fighting the Islamic State and against them, that it was OK to take people hostage. So, for instance, if there was someone from the UK and he was in Syria and at that time the Islamic State was at war with the UK, it would be legitimate to take that person hostage.”

3 p.m. Co-Conspirator Explains How He Helped Others Get to Syria

The defense is continuing to cross-examine Abdirizak Warsame in the trial of three Somali-Minnesotan men accused of trying to travel to Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State group.

Warsame, who has already pleaded guilty in the case, is testifying against 21-year-old Guled Omar, 22-year-old Abdirahman Daud and 22-year-old Mohamed Farah, who are accused of trying to join ISIS.

Bruce Nestor, who is representing Daud, outlined some of the motivation Warsame had to testify against the three defendants. He outlined that Warsame took a plea deal to avoid a second charge of conspiracy to murder outside the United States, which carries a life sentence.

Nestor then had Warsame recall the night he was arrested in December 2015. Warsame testified that he was sent to Anoka County Jail and that he had never been in jail before that night.

“It was probably shocking to be in jail, right?” Nestor asked. “You had a small cell, bad food, it was a place you didn’t want to remain, right?”

“Yes,” Warsame said.

Nestor then questioned Warsame about the group’s alleged plans to travel to Syria in 2014.

Upon questioning, Warsame testified that it was a “surprise to everyone” when their friend, Hanad Mohallim, left for Syria in March 2014. Warsame said there had been no real discussions about traveling to Syria before that moment.

Warsame again explained to the jurors how two travel plans formed in May 2014, shortly after Mohallim left.

The first one involved Abdi Nur and Abdullahi Yusuf leaving the United States by airplane. Yusuf was stopped at the airport and has since pleaded guilty in the case, but Nur successfully made it to Syria.

The second plan was to go to Syria via driving to Mexico, and that plan involved Abdirahman Bashir, Yusuf Jama and Omar. That plan was stopped when Omar’s family became suspicious and intervened.

Nestor then questioned Warsame about his allegations that his client, Daud, was “rushing everyone” during that alleged attempt in May 2014.

“At that time, Abdi Nur and Abdullahi Yusuf and a few others had their passports and were ready to leave, but Daud didn’t have his travel documents, and for him to be rushing others who were ready didn’t make sense to me,” Warsame said. “For him to rush people when he himself didn’t have anything to travel with, that’s something that, kind of, annoyed some people.”

Nestor then asked what steps Daud took to rush everyone to leave.

“On one occasion, he got Abdi Nur to go shopping, and I didn’t want him to go shop because it was a sign he would be ready to go right away and would be leaving soon,” Warsame said.

Warsame previously testified that he didn’t have his travel documents at that time and was worried about getting left behind.

“Did Daud go shopping with Abdi Nur? Did he print out his itinerary? Did he provide money to Abdi Nur? Did he provide money to Yusuf Jama? Did he provide money to Abdullahi Yusuf?” Nestor asked, referencing actions Warsame was himself accused of committing. “You sold your phone to help people travel, right?”

Warsame responded that he had, indeed, done that.

“What are some examples of what you did to help people travel?” Nestor asked Warsame.

Warsame answered that he “handed out money if people needed it,” “encouraged people to try to get their passports before summer ends and try to leave and go to Syria before summer ends,” “gave advice when some people needed advice,” and “if they were not serious anymore, I’d try my best to encourage them to do their best and continue their efforts.”

We’re taking a 30-minute break, and court will resume at 3:30 p.m.

12:30 p.m. Co-Conspirator: Martyrdom was in my Head Before ISIS Showed Up

The prosecution has finished questioning Abdirizak Warsame, and now defense attorneys are getting an opportunity for cross-examination.

Warsame, who has already pleaded guilty in the case, is testifying against 21-year-old Guled Omar, 22-year-old Abdirahman Daud and 22-year-old Mohamed Farah, who are accused of trying to join ISIS.

Farah’s attorney, Murad Mohammad, first questioned Warsame about his uncle, who is the executive director of Ka Joog, a Minneapolis-based organization that works to combat radicalization among Somali young.

Mohammad asked Warsame if Ka Joog works closely with the government and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, to which Warsame said it did. Mohammed asked if his uncle had anything to do with delaying Warsame’s charges, and Warsame said he didn’t know.

The defendants were arrested in April 2015, and Warsame was arrested in December 2015. In the re-direct, Warsame told prosecutors that he never tried to get on a plane to go to Syria, he never dropped anyone off at the airport and he never got in a car to drive to California to join ISIS.

Warsame said he took the guilty plea to avoid the charge of conspiracy to murder outside the United States.

“I knew I was guilty, and I was shown all the evidence compiled against me, and I knew I wouldn’t have a chance,” Warsame said.

Mohammad then asked Warsame about his initial interest in the Syrian conflict and questioned if Warsame thought about martyrdom before the Islamic State existed.

“That was, for me, to go and fight jihad and attain martyrdom, was something in my head before ISIS showed up,” Warsame said.

Mohammad argued that joining ISIS was not an essential part of martyrdom.

“Before ISIS came on the scene, you had the intention, desire and a dream of performing jihad and dying as a martyr so you could go to heaven,” Mohammad said. “Was it necessary for you to join ISIS to achieve martyrdom?”

“Well … that’s where I wanted to go, to join ISIS and go fight with them,” Warsame answered.

“Is it possible for you to be a martyr without joining ISIS?” Mohammad asked again.

“Yes,” Warsame answered.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Davis then asked Warsame where he “learned all this,” and where he was getting his knowledge.

Warsame cited Anwar al-Awlaki, who was a jihad preacher in Yemen.

“He talked about the end of times, some of the events that will happen during the end times,” Warsame said. “One lecture talked about how at the end of times a group would emerge from the land of Sham [Syria] and would be carrying the black flag and would establish a caliphate during a time when Muslims are being oppressed … When I saw all this fighting was happening in Syria, I listened back to that lecture and saw it as a prophecy that was unveiling itself.”

Warsame also talked about the belief that martyrs would one day be able to save their family members from hell.

“In some parts of Islam, we believe the person who dies as a martyr, if he has family members who, eventually, in the afterlife go to hell, that person who died as a martyr can save his family members that went to hell and take them out and bring them to heaven,” Warsame said.

We’re taking a lunch break, and court will resume at 1:30 p.m.

 Noon: Co-Conspirator Continues Testimony: I Didn’t Want to Get Left Behind

Abdirizak Warsame’s testimony resumed an hour later than scheduled following the chaos outside the courtroom and the fallout afterward.

Warsame is testifying against 21-year-old Guled Omar, 22-year-old Abdirahman Daud and 22-year-old Mohamed Farah, who are accused of trying to join ISIS. His testimony – along with the testimony of Abdullahi Yusuf and Abdirahman Bashir – shows the tension in the Somali community as friends testify against friends.

In his testimony, Warsame said he would have conversations with Omar, Daud and Abdi Nur, who successfully made it to Syria, about why they were trying to go to Syria.

“We believed if we were to go to Syria and fight for ISIL, we would be amongst the highest rank of the fighters and eventually we would try to get martyrdom, and that would be a big reward in the face of Allah,” Warsame said.

The prosecution showed a Snapchat selfie of Warsame with digitally drawn-on ISIS flags and the caption, “Till the death of me baaabbbyyyyy.” Warsame said the caption meant he supports ISIS until “the death of me.”

Prosecutors then showed a second Snapchat photo of Warsame and Zacharia Abdurahman, who already pleaded guilty in the case, in November 2014 in Chicago. The caption said, “If u don’t know, now u know…”

Both men were raising their index finger, which Warsame said represented “the oneness of God.” He said ISIS fighters would make that gesture in their battles because they “justified what they were doing, and it’s all for the cause of God.”

Warsame said he and his friends talked about Syria every time they met, which was a few times a week.

“All of us watched the [ISIS propaganda] videos and saw how they have mass executions, and if whoever is fighting against them is captured, they ultimately die, you know?” Warsame said. “We all knew that if we were to go there and fight and there would be someone captured and we were ordered to kill them, we would have to. It was a mutual understanding.”

Warsame said some of the videos included lectures that explained why the killing was justified, citing quotes from scholars.

“We all understood it; we all knew it was justified,” Warsame said. “We didn’t ask each others’ opinions because we all understood it.”

When asked who “all” included, Warsame listed the three defendants as well as himself, Bashir, Yusuf, Adnan Farah and Yusuf Jama.

His testimony is important to the prosecution because the three defendants are all facing a charge of conspiracy to murder outside the United States.

Warsame then described May 2014, when two plans formed. The first one involved Nur and Yusuf leaving the United States by airplane. Yusuf was stopped at the airport, but Nur successfully made it to Syria.

The second plan was to go to Syria via driving to Mexico, and that plan involved Bashir, Jama and Omar. That plan was stopped when Omar’s family became suspicious and intervened.

Warsame said, at the time, he didn’t have the right travel documents.

“I didn’t have a passport … I wanted them to wait and not leave me, but Abdi Nur wanted to go right away,” Warsame said. “I didn’t want to get left behind.”

Warsame then described urging Omar to try again to go to Syria in April 2015. A secretly-recorded conversation was previously played in court during Bashir’s testimony showing this conversation.

“Are you stressing over the choices?” Warsame asked Omar in the audio. “If you’re tired of stressing, then just know that whenever you submit yourself to Allah’s plans, there’s always going to be a test, bro. This is an easier test than going over there and every day trying to get Shahada [martyred] but you don’t get it.”

In his testimony Wednesday, Warsame said Omar was talking about how he was going through problems with his family and that his mom was going through a hard time and needed him.

“I was telling him to go and it would be better for him to go, and I was encouraging him to go,” Warsame said. “I was trying to not let his faith go down and tell him to put his trust in God, and if he tried, possibly he would be able to go and make it again.”

10 a.m. Chaos Erupts Outside of Courtroom Ahead of Co-Conspirator’s Testimony

Abdirizak Warsame’s sister was taken into custody minutes before he was set to continue his testimony against 21-year-old Guled Omar, 22-year-old Abdirahman Daud and 22-year-old Mohamed Farah, who are accused of trying to join ISIS.

Chaos erupted outside the courtroom as Warsame’s sister became upset and was shouting about who she was going to be seated next to once inside the room. She was eventually taken to the ground and handcuffed after refusing to follow the court marshals’ orders, and she was still shouting as she was led away.

It was an emotional scene as other family members attempted to intervene; many people were seen in tears after the woman was arrested.

In his testimony, Warsame said defendant Daud was dating his sister for about a year until Daud was arrested in April 2015. It’s unclear if that was the same sister who was taken into custody Wednesday morning.

Another woman was removed as well after she was confronted about taking a photo of the arrest; photography is strictly prohibited inside the courthouse.

This was the most heated emotion we’ve seen yet in the trial, which is pitting families against families as some members of the Somali community are now testifying against their former friends.

Inside the courtroom, a man identified as Burhan Mohumed, who was apparently involved in the altercation, was called before U.S. District Court Judge Michael Davis. Mohumed told Davis that he was trying to break up the chaos outside the courtroom and that he was upset one of the marshal’s tried to take his photograph for identification. Davis responded that the marshal had his permission to take the photo.

“You have an attitude, and I can get one, too,” Davis said. “My understanding is you’ve had an attitude for the past few days here.”

Davis then told Mohumed that it was his understanding he had been removed from the overflow courtroom at least three times during the trial, and Mohumed acknowledged he was kicked out for using his cellphone. Davis then banned Mohumed from the United States Courthouse in Minneapolis for the duration of the trial. Davis told him he would be arrested for trespassing if he comes back.

The defendants were all taken out of the courtroom before Mohumed was called to the stand, and the jury had not yet been seated.

Court is now an hour behind schedule.

9 a.m. Co-Conspirator Continues Testimony in Terror Trial

The trial of three Minnesota men accused of trying to travel to Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State group will continue for the 13th day Wednesday with the testimony of 21-year-old Abdirizak Warsame of Eagan.

Warsame has already pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization. He was arrested in December 2015 and pleaded guilty Thursday, Feb. 11, after admitting to helping other members of the group with their plans to travel to Syria.

Warsame is testifying against 21-year-old Guled Omar, 22-year-old Abdirahman Daud and 22-year-old Mohamed Farah, who are accused of trying to join ISIS.

Court will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday