ISIS suspect being held under 'brutal conditions'

Guled Omar
Guled Omar
Hennepin County Sheriff's Office via AP

Attorneys for a Minneapolis man in jail awaiting trial on terrorism conspiracy charges say he is living under "brutal conditions" and has been placed in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day.

In a letter to Senior U.S. District Judge Michael Davis on Sept. 14, Glenn Bruder, attorney for Guled Omar, asked the judge to order that Omar be moved from the Ramsey County Jail to a different facility.

The letter said that Omar, 21, is being held in a secure unit intended for people with mental health problems and disciplinary cases. It adds that he has also been denied visits from his family.

Omar was arrested at his home on April 19 amid allegations that he had been planning to join the terrorist group ISIS in Syria. Five of his friends were arrested the same day. Omar's co-defendants, two of whom pleaded guilty last month, are being held in less restrictive conditions in the Anoka, Sherbune and Washington County jails.

But Omar has been moved around since his arrest in April. In the most recent move, he was transferred from the Anoka County Jail to Ramsey County — and his attorneys don't know why.

"Nobody has given me any explanation," Bruder said.

The U.S. Marshals Service wouldn't comment on Omar's transfer or the conditions under which he is being held.

His attorneys say he was returned to the Ramsey County facility, where he'd been held earlier in the case, on Sept. 9. In the secure unit where he's being held, Bruder wrote, Omar is not allowed to have reading materials.

The attorneys said they are concerned that the restrictions could affect preparations for the trial.

"Omar appeared depressed and stated that he 'doesn't know how [he] can make it five months in these conditions,'" the attorney's letter said.

While Omar was being held at the Anoka County Jail, he was allowed to have visitors and access to the jail's library and recreation facilities, his attorneys said.

After his transfer to the secure facility in Ramsey County, Bruder wrote, his legal papers were confiscated, because he is not allowed to have more than a half-inch of paper at one time.

"If my client is not allowed access to relevant documents relating to this case, his ability to assist in the preparation and presentation of his defense will be severely impeded," he wrote.

On Sept. 22, Davis and the U.S. Marshals responded, saying they had made arrangements for Omar to visit the federal courthouse on weekdays to review documents in preparation for his trial, which is set for Feb. 16, 2016.

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