‘I’m not a terrorist’ – Minn. ISIL case defendant tells judge in a letter

Published 6:08 am Thursday, November 3, 2016

By Stephen Montemayor

Minneapolis Star Tribune

In a letter to the federal judge who will sentence him later this month, one of nine Twin Cities men convicted of trying to support ISIL denounced the terror group he once sought to join as “cowards” and called himself a victim of the group’s “intense mental warfare.”

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“Your Honor, I am against terrorism and I’m not a terrorist,” Hanad Musse wrote Judge Michael Davis in a letter signed from an Elk River jail last month.

Musse was the first of the defendants to plead guilty last year to federal charges that they conspired to leave the United States and join ISIL in the Middle East. His letter to Davis was attached to a brief filed Wednesday by his attorney requesting a 6-year prison sentence in the case. Sentencing arguments from defense attorneys and prosecutors in the case are due Thursday, and Davis will sentence all nine men during hearings Nov. 14-16.

Musse and five other defendants who pleaded guilty face maximum sentences of 15 years in prison. Three others convicted by a federal jury of charges including conspiracy to murder outside the United States face possible maximum life sentences.

Abdirahman Daud, one of three men convicted at trial in June, also filed a motion Wednesday asking Davis to depart from sentencing guidelines that call for enhanced penalties that accompany terrorism convictions. Daud’s attorney, Bruce Nestor, said the enhancement “substantially over-represents” the seriousness of the young man’s criminal history. Neither Musse nor Daud had prior criminal histories before being indicted in the case, but each has been automatically assigned the highest federal criminal history category in their presentencing reports.

“His participation in the offense … while serious, is not the equivalent of an individual who actually carries out a deliberate, planned act of terrorism inflicting physical injury on individuals and psychological terror on society,” Nestor said.

The enhanced sentences for terrorism cases were imposed by the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 1995.