A hearing for a Twin Cities man accused of helping young Somali men fight with the terrorist organization al-Shabab was temporarily suspended today after he collapsed in open court.
Mahamud Said Omar was standing beside his attorney and an interpreter when he lost consciousness and fell to the floor in federal judge Michael Davis' Minneapolis courtroom.
Omar regained consciousness, but paramedics took him to an area hospital for tests, and the judge suspended proceedings for the day.
The court was crowded with more than a dozen of Omar's family and friends, some of whom were visibly shaken at the sight of the incident. Omar, 45, was extradited from the Netherlands earlier this month. He has not yet entered a plea on charges of providing material support to foreign terrorists.
The hearing today was sought by Omar's attorney, Matt Forsgren, who wants Omar to be released pending trial.
After Omar was taken away by ambulance, Forsgren said he was "gravely concerned" for his client. He said Omar had similar health incidents while imprisoned in the Netherlands.
"It's something we intend to address along with the merits of the case," he said.
Omar's older brother, Mohamed Omar Osman, said Omar has had health problems ever since he was arrested. Osman said his brother's health has continued to deteriorate.
"He needs a lot of help mentally and physically," he said.
Before Omar collapsed, Forsgren, federal prosecutors and the judge were discussing appointing a new interpreter who is proficient in a lesser-known Somali dialect.
Prosecutors argued in court documents filed before the hearing that Omar should remain in federal custody, saying he has demonstrated an ability to travel overseas and lied to Dutch authorities before being extradited to the U.S.
Omar Jamal, the first secretary at the Permanent Mission of the Somali Republic to the United Nations who has been a longtime advocate for the Somali community in Minneapolis, also attended the hearing.
Jamal said he agrees with Mahamud Said Omar's family that he's innocent.
"He's not as big of a fish as the government would like us to believe," Jamal said, adding that the Somali transitional government was watching the case closely.
The detention hearing was to resume as soon as Omar was well enough to attend.