ISIS case defendants face sentencing this week

Published 9:43 am Monday, November 14, 2016

By Laura Yuen

MPR News/90.1 FM

Nine Twin Cities men who were part of the nation’s largest ISIS conspiracy case will learn their fates this week as a federal judge begins three days of sentencing on Monday.

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The hearings cap more than two years of a federal investigation that traced the movement of young Minnesotans to the Middle East to take up arms with the so-called Islamic State. The men who’ll be sentenced never made it that far, but they still face hard prison time.

Prosecutors are proposing 15 years for most of the men who pleaded guilty to supporting a terrorist group. But if they cooperated with the government, prosecutors are suggesting sentences of as little as 3.5 years.

For three men who took their cases to trial this year, the penalties could be much stiffer — prosecutors want 30 years in prison for two of them, Abdirahman Daud and Mohamed Farah, and 40 for an alleged leader of the group, Guled Omar.

The trio that went to trial was convicted in June after a jury heard audio recordings of the men’s own words, secretly captured by a friend working with the FBI. They openly discussed their plans to leave the country using fake passports and boasted about the contacts they had made in Syria.

In one of the tapes, defendant Mohamed Farah told the informant he’d kill an FBI agent who was closing in on him.

“Our backs to the wall, I’m going to kill the one who threatens me,” Farah said on the tape, speaking in a mix of Somali and English.

At trial, Farah and the men argued such comments were nothing more than just youthful boasting — they weren’t actual threats.

The trial was crushing for family and friends, like Naema Ahmed. She’s engaged to one of the men convicted, Abdirahman Daud. She said her own understanding of the case has evolved.

“The boys and the families in the beginning, we were in stage of denial,” Ahmed said. “You kind of don’t want to believe it. Now we take acceptance to what happened. The biggest thing is, we just want our families back and our boys back.”