Minn. lawmaker: No funds to 'pirate lovers'

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(AP) - A Minnesota lawmaker said he wants to ensure that no taxpayer dollars or state grants go to groups supporting pirates, after a Twin Cities-based Somali advocate said he helped get an attorney for the Somali teen facing piracy and hostage-taking charges.

House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said his upcoming amendment to the public safety finance bill would deny non-profit status and prohibit grants to groups helping non-citizens accused of piracy or terrorism.

"Taxpayers shouldn't be supporting those who support and defend people who attack Americans," Seifert said in a statement with the headline: "Seifert: No taxpayer support for pirate lovers and terrorists."

Seifert
House Minority Leader Marty Seifert wants to restrict state money to groups helping non-citizens accused of piracy or terrorism. He's specifically targetint the Somali Justice Advocacy Center.
MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire

Omar Jamal, director of the nonprofit Somali Justice Advocacy Center, said the parents of Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse asked Jamal for help.

Jamal said Wednesday he's not weighing in on the guilt or innocence of the teen, but his role is to help the family understand the legal system.

"We act as an intermediary between the system and the community," Jamal said. "In this case we are trying to help the family understand what's going on here."

He noted that because of the circumstances back in Somalia, the family thinks Muse could be executed by a firing squad.

Muse, 18, is the only accused pirate to survive the recent hostage-taking of Richard Phillips, the captain of the Maersk Alabama ship.

"We are trying to help the family understand what's going on here."

He has been brought to New York to face charges including piracy under the law of nations, which carries a mandatory penalty of life in prison. Muse's parents say he is 16 years old.

Seifert said Wednesday that he would offer his amendment when the public safety finance bill comes up in the House on Thursday or Friday.

Seifert said he's researching how much money has gone to support Jamal's group over the last few years, and so far, he has found one public safety grant for a few hundred dollars.

Seifert also took aim at Jamal's immigration status. In 2005, Jamal was convicted in federal court in Tennessee on immigration charges and sentenced to a year probation.

Documents show his case was referred to immigration officials for deportation, and Jamal said the case is still before an immigration judge.

Jamal's attorney did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment, and a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said he could not comment on individual cases.

Jamal said he has asylum and is a legal resident. He also said Seifert is entitled to his opinion and that the Somali Justice Advocacy Center will continue to work with him.

Seifert said he just wants the law enforced.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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