Attorneys for the six men accused of trying to flee the Twin Cities to join the terrorist group ISIS are demanding federal prosecutors identify an informant who played a key role in cracking the case.
The FBI paid an informant who went by the name "Rover" and was identified in court documents as CHS. CHS was paid more than $41,000 from January 2014 to May 2015, according to documents filed Thursday in U.S. District Court by Minneapolis-based attorney Andrew Birrell.
Attorneys for Hamza Ahmed, Adnan Farah, Abdirahman Daud, Zacharia Abdurahman, Hanad Musse and Guled Omar, question the informant's credibility. They say investigators knew CHS lied about his criminal history and recently admitted to the FBI that before becoming an informant, CHS was part of a conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
Documents also say that one of the six, Musse, told CHS he would no longer travel to join ISIS and that FBI agents confirmed that fact in preliminary and detention hearings.
"Despite lying under oath multiple times and having participated in the same conduct charged in the indictment, the informant remains free," Musse's attorney Andrew Birrell wrote. "The informant's credibility and motivation will be central to the defense."
A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger declined to comment on the most recent filings and said federal prosecutors plan to respond in court.
The informant's role in the counterterrorism sweep has caused an uproar in the Somali and Muslim community in Minnesota. Family members of the accused six have expressed anger against the informant, someone they considered a close friend who shared their dinner table.
Executive Director for the Minnesota Council on American-Islamic Relations Jaylani Hussein said the use of informants has created "a great deal of distrust between law enforcement and the community."
CAIR often receives calls seeking advice on how to respond to FBI agents digging for information about friends and family. Hussein said there has been an increase in those calls over the past few months.
It's important to cooperate with law enforcement, he added, but in a way that protects individuals' rights.
"We know law enforcement has in the past abused some of these tactics," he said. "Most of the time we've learned that informants who are actually informants are not individuals who chose to become informants. Many of them are forced to become an informant because of a criminal case pending against them."
Court documents filed Thursday also request access to the informant for interviews and say CHS' testimony is critical to the defense. Withholding the informant's identity would violate fundamental principles of fairness.
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