Prosecutors argue against release plan for terror suspects

ISIS terror suspects
Three young Minnesotans accused of trying to join ISIS are, left to right: Zacharia Abdurahman, Hanad Musse and Hamza Ahmed.
Courtesy of Sherburne County Jail

A proposed release plan for three Minnesota terror suspects risks public safety and does nothing to guarantee they won't flee to Syria to join ISIS, prosecutors said Tuesday.

In its response to the defendants' motion for release, the government said it is not satisfied with the "unique and untested" pretrial release plans.

On June 26, lawyers for Hamza Ahmed, 20, and Zacharia Abdurahman and Hanad Musse, both 19, submitted release plans for their clients. Somali-American community leaders, including imams, were to supervise the suspects and help them integrate into the community.

During detention hearings for the suspects in May, Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis said he was open to looking at less restrictive conditions for the men and told community leaders and lawyers to come up with a plan. "It's not a cookie-cutter situation," Davis said on May 12.

In the motion filed Tuesday, prosecutors said "none of these proposals can sufficiently guarantee that the defendant will eschew this extremist ideology, remain law-abiding and appear in court when instructed."

Prior to their arrests, the suspects were living with their families, enrolled in school and attending mosques, and some were employed, the motion said.

It added that the FBI was conducting physical surveillance on some of the men, but that did not stop them from leaving "their families, their schools, their mosques and their country to join a terrorist organization."

But Mohamud Noor, director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota and one of the community members advocating for the release plans, said there was not any previous plan to prevent the defendants from joining extremist groups.

He said it won't be an easy task and requires government involvement.

"This is a process whereby we are willing to intervene," he said. "We are willing to put some efforts into this now that they know that they're facing serious charges. I think that changes the whole picture."

Prosecutors also argued that the men show no signs of rejecting ISIS' ideology, and as evidence provided secretly taped conversations between a paid FBI informant and some of the ISIS suspects before they were arrested.

In a government transcript, the informant, who was friends with the men in custody, discussed with Abdurahman the case of Abdullahi Yusuf, another ISIS suspect who was released to a halfway house and then later sent back to jail after a box cutter was allegedly found under his bed.

Abdurahman said Yusuf's initial release to a halfway house was part of a deradicalization experiment.

"With me, all of us, we're hopeless, we're not gonna be in a program, bro," he told the informant. "We will straight up serve time."

The informant asked Abdurahman why.

"Not for us, bro," he said.

In the same recording, Abdurahman and alleged co-conspirator Guled Omar talked on the phone with Minnesota ISIS fighter Abdi Nur.

Abdurahman allegedly told Nur that the ISIS suspects were "the hot boys on the block, bro."

"We're not too far bro, we gonna be with you, bro," Abdurahman told Nur, according to the transcript.

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