A federal judge today approved the release of a Somali man who's been in custody on terror charges while he awaits sentencing.
Kamal Said Hassan is one of about 20 Somali-American men from Minneapolis who traveled overseas to fight with the terrorist group al-Shabaab.
After more than two years in jail, Hassan, 26, will be released at the end of the month and confined to his family's home. U.S. District Court chief Judge Michael Davis told Hassan that he must wear a global positioning tracking device that will sound an alarm if he leaves the house. Davis warned Hassan, "If there's a violation of you being outside smelling the flowers or looking at birds you will be taken into custody."
Hassan's parents, sister and wife were present in the courtroom as Davis ran down a litany of conditions they and Hassan will have to abide by. All computers in the home will be monitored by the government. Hassan is forbidden to use mobile phones. No firearms will be allowed in the house. Twice during the hearing, Davis asked Hassan's father to stand and asked him if understood the conditions.
Davis also asked Hassan, who was standing at a lectern in the middle of the courtroom, if he understood what would happen if he failed to follow the conditions of his release. "I will go back to jail," said Hassan.
Davis added a further caution. "I may have a soft voice, but I carry a big stick," he said. "I mean what I say."
In 2009, Hassan pleaded guilty to lying to FBI investigators. Hassan had told them that after he'd left an al-Shabaab training camp in Somalia, he went straight to Yemen without committing any further acts on behalf of al-Shabaab. But according to his plea agreement, Hassan admitted he continued to fight for al-Shabaab. Hassan also pleaded guilty to one count of providing material support to terrorists and one count of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization. He's facing up to 38 years in prison.
Throughout this investigation, federal law enforcement officials cited concerns the terrorist group would send one of its American fighters back to carry out an attack on U.S. soil, even though FBI officials say there is no evidence to support that.
Hassan is one of three Somali men who returned to Minnesota after fighting for the terrorist group and the last one still in custody. The other two have already pleaded guilty to terror charges and have been released while they await sentencing.
Federal defender Manny Atwal based part of her argument for Hassan's release on those previous cases.
"I was very happy with the result. But I also think it was the right thing to do," Atwal said. "Especially when you look at the other defendants that have been released pending sentencing. It was the right thing to do. He should be treated the same as the other people that have been released."
Hassan's father told reporters the family was glad Hassan was coming home. Atwal said Hassan is also happy to be going home. She said Hassan has a small child with whom he looks forward to spending time.
Atwal said she doesn't know when Hassan will be sentenced.