Three Somali-Minnesotan men accused of trying to travel to Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State group are going to trial this week in Minneapolis.
The three were caught up in a yearlong FBI investigation in the Twin Cities that produced one of the government’s most complex terror recruitment prosecutions.
Abdirahman Yasin Daud, 22; Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, 22; and Guled Ali Omar, 21; are the final three remaining defendants from a circle of 10 young Somali-American men charged last year after the intensive FBI investigation. Six have pleaded guilty and another is a fugitive who reportedly made it into Syria to fight for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
The most serious charge, conspiracy to murder outside the United States, carries the possibility of life in prison.
The trial, just the third federal Isil-related case to reach a courtroom, is expected to last three weeks and draw a large local and national audience; previous hearings in the case have required overflow seating and a heavy law enforcement presence.
In briefs filed over the weekend, prosecutors said they expect to call 26 witnesses.
A small group of civil liberties advocates also showed up at the Minneapolis federal building Monday morning, carrying signs that read, “Free Our Entrapped Youth.”
Before jury selection began, U.S. District Judge Michael Davis convened a 9 a.m. hearing on a motion late last week from Farah’s attorney to withdraw from the case. The attorney, Murad Mohammad, filed the motion after saying Farah’s family could no longer pay his fees and on the same day Farah’s parents held a news conference criticizing his representation. They said Mohammad encouraged their son to accept a guilty plea instead of fighting the charges at trial.
On Thursday, Davis issued an order saying that the court would attempt to provide an overflow courtroom each day of the trial to maximize the number of possible audience members. Any exhibits admitted into evidence will be made available after trial, Davis said.