Somali woman at new jail, wearing head scarf

Hawo Mohamed Hassan and Amina Farah Ali
In this Aug. 5, 2010 file photo, Hawo Mohamed Hassan, left, and Amina Farah Ali, both of Rochester, Minn., leave the U.S. District Court after appearing at a hearing in St Paul, Minn. A jury on Thursday convicted the two women of funneling money to a terrorist group in Somalia. Ali has been moved to a new jail facility where she is now allowed to wear her head scarf in certain situations.
AP Photo/Craig Lassig, File

A Minnesota Somali woman who wanted to wear a religious head covering while in custody on federal terror charges has been moved to a new jail facility, where she is now allowed to wear her head scarf in certain situations.

Amina Farah Ali, 35, of Rochester, was convicted last month of funneling money to the terror group al-Shabab in Somalia. She's been ordered held while she awaits sentencing on 13 terror-related counts, including one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

She was originally sent to the Sherburne County jail, where she was not allowed to wear her head covering for security reasons. Her attorney, Dan Scott, said Wednesday he was working with officials in Sherburne County to accommodate Ali's religious views - and he thought a resolution was near.

But on Monday, Ali was transferred to Ramsey County.

Scott said Ali was wearing a head scarf when he visited her Wednesday at the Ramsey County jail. He said she is allowed to wear the scarf when meeting people or leaving her cell block, but Ali told him she can't wear it inside the primary area where she is being held.

Scott said he's talking with Ramsey County officials to see if more accommodations can be made. Randy Gustafson, a spokesman with the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department, confirmed Ali has been allowed to wear the head scarf under certain circumstances, but would not elaborate.

"We're trying our best to accommodate her religious views," he said.

Authorities did not give a reason for Ali's transfer. Scott also said he was told why she was moved. Gustafson said the U.S. Marshals Service requested it Friday, and it happened Monday.

Thomas Volk, U.S. Marshals spokesman, said the transfer was based on a "law enforcement purpose." He had no further explanation and said the Marshals Service does not comment on correctional matters.

The Sherburne County sheriff did not return a phone message seeking comment Wednesday.

Ali's sentencing date has not been scheduled. She faces up to 15 years in prison on each count.

If sentenced to federal prison, Ali would likely be allowed to wear an approved head scarf.

The Bureau of Prisons' policy specifically allows scarves, or hijabs, for females who are Muslim. There are roughly 300 Muslim females currently in the federal prison system. The Bureau of Prisons also allows jumper dresses for women whose religious views compel them to wear loose-fitting clothing.

Scott has said that as part of Ali's Muslim faith, she believes she must dress modestly in front of men who are not her relatives. That modest dress includes a head scarf. When asked how Ali was doing in the Ramsey County facility, Scott said: "She's not settled in yet ... but it was nice to see her with a head covering."

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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