Called to Fight

2 men convicted on ISIS-related charges ask for rehabilitation

Abdirahman Yasin Daud
Abdirahman Yasin Daud
Courtesy Sherburne County Jail

Attorneys for two men recently convicted of trying to join the terrorist group ISIS in Syria are asking a judge if their clients can be assessed for "deradicalization."

Unlike six friends who pleaded guilty to charges of plotting to enlist with ISIS, Abdirahman Daud and Guled Omar took their chances and went to trial in May. A jury found the two men, along with a third defendant, guilty on several terror-related charges. They face up to life in prison as punishment.

Guled Omar
This photo provided April 23, 2015, by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office shows Guled Omar, 20. Omar is among six Minnesota men of Somali descent that have been charged in a criminal complaint with trying to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group.
Hennepin County Sheriff's Office via AP

Now, Daud and Omar want an option that's been offered to their friends who've pleaded guilty: They want to be considered for possible rehabilitation.

It's part of a unique program pioneered by U.S. District Judge Michael Davis to help him determine fair sentences for terrorism defendants. He's brought in Daniel Koehler, a German deradicalization expert who's worked with neo-Nazis and other violent extremists, to work with U.S. probation officials to conduct the studies in Minneapolis.

Davis has said that the assessment is not an alternative to incarceration.

Attorneys for Daud and Omar say probation officials have completed their initial reviews as part of the standard pre-sentencing reports for the young men. But the two men believe the judge will need more information to decide on appropriate sentences, according to court documents filed Thursday.

It's not clear if Mohamed Farah, a third defendant who was convicted in the conspiracy, will also seek to participate in the program. A message sent to his attorney was not returned.

Davis has yet to set a sentencing date for any of the defendants. After the trial concluded in early June, a spokesman for the families said the men would appeal the jury's decision. Attorneys for Daud and Omar could not be reached Thursday.

Minnesota has one of the largest clusters of people prosecuted on charges of trying to support ISIS, second only to New York. Around the country, there have been 91 individuals charged, according to the most recent numbers released by George Washington University's Program on Extremism.

Out of those national cases, the vast majority of the defendants — 88 percent — were men. Nearly half were accused of traveling or attempting to travel overseas, and 55 percent were charged in an operation involving an informant or an undercover agent.