A man with Minneapolis ties who's accused of aiding terrorists pleaded with a federal judge Tuesday to release him.
Mohamed Warsame, a Canadian citizen of Somali descent, has spent more than five years in prison while awaiting trial. Warsame lived in Minneapolis as a community college student in 2002. He has waited for his case to go to trial since he was arrested in 2003.
In January 2004, the federal government charged Warsame with providing material support to foreign terrorist organizations by participating in military camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and lying to the FBI.
Specifically, the government accuses him of fighting with al Qaeda-trained members alongside Taliban forces in Afghanistan, teaching English to several al Qaeda operatives, and sending $2,000 to a former military camp instructor.
Warsame has denied these charges, saying that he never knowingly attended an al Qaeda training camp but was on a spiritual journey seeking a "utopian" society in Afghanistan.
When the marshals walked Warsame into court Tuesday, he smiled and gave the "thumbs up" sign to about a dozen family members who were seated in the gallery.
Attorney David Thomas argued for Warsame's release, because at some point, he said, incarceration before trial becomes punishment.
Thomas said after five and a half years, this "endless incarceration must come to an end." He said Warsame deserves a chance to be released on electronic monitoring with any kind of conditions, since he's been a model prisoner and has never received even a traffic ticket.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Anders Folk told the court that Warsame is still a flight risk and a danger to the community.
Judge John Tunheim said he was very concerned about Warsame's length of time in prison, and would take the issue under advisement and rule as soon as possible. He said he was hamstrung because he was waiting for the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to decide a critical issue in the case.
Warsame's case cannot go forward until that court decides to uphold or reverse Tunheim's May 2007 order, in which he ruled that FBI agents failed to read Warsame his rights.
As a result, Tunheim said some, but not all, of Warsame's statements to the FBI could not be used against him in court. Federal prosecutors appealed that ruling, and the 8th circuit still has not issued its decision.
Before Tuesday's hearing ended, Warsame stood up and pleaded with Tunheim to let him out of prison. Two marshals took hold of him by both arms and told him to sit down. Tunheim told the marshals to let Warsame talk.
Warsame accused the prosecutors of "prosecutorial misconduct." He said he loves "Minnesota, the Twins, the Vikings," but this was unfair.
"I respect you, sir," Warsame said to Judge Tunheim, but added, I've been "treated unfairly."
Tunheim said he understood and would do what he could as soon as possible.
The hearing was supposed to consider other motions related to Warsame's case, but both sides agreed right before court to put those on hold until a status hearing on May 20.
Warsame's attorneys want access to high-ranking al Qaeda members held at Guantanamo Bay, who would presumably say they've never heard of Warsame. They also want to call another witness to say that Warsame was in Afghanistan solely to teach English at a medical clinic.
Prosecutors also have a request in to depose a person in Canada, named in court documents as "Foreign Witness A," who they say can testify that Warsame knew he attend an al Qaeda training camp.