Defense: Deportation ‘potential death sentence’

Published 9:28 am Wednesday, January 22, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS — Deportation to Somalia could be “a potential death sentence” for a young woman who lied to a grand jury about raising money for men who left Minnesota to join a terrorist group in Somalia, her attorney argued in documents unsealed during her sentencing hearing Tuesday.

Prosecutors are asking for at least a two-year prison sentence for Saynab Hussein, arguing that she was involved in the conspiracy — and even warned the men to be careful in case the FBI was listening. But one of her attorneys said Hussein was merely a naive teenager who had no intent of promoting terrorism, and got caught up in something she didn’t understand.

“Saynab Hussein is not a radical extremist,” defense attorney Dulce Foster told the judge.

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Defense attorneys also contended, in the court documents, that she should be sentenced to probation. They said a sentence of a year or longer would allow authorities to initiate deportation proceedings. Hussein is a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. and left Somalia when she was a year old.

Hussein, of Nashville, Tenn., had appeared in federal court in Minneapolis on Tuesday expecting to be sentenced on one count of perjury in connection with the government’s long-running investigation into recruiting and financing for al-Shabab, a terrorist group with links to al-Qaida.

But her sentencing was postponed by U.S. District Judge Michael Davis. He asked attorneys on both sides to provide information about immigration and deportation laws, and set sentencing for April 29.

The defense argued that Hussein has cooperated with authorities. In documents unsealed Tuesday, her lawyer said Hussein came to the U.S. in 1999, after living in a refugee camp in Kenya, and settled in Minneapolis. The mother and part-time nursing student now lives in Tennessee and was recently married to a U.S. citizen.