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Lawyers for ex-St. Kate student charged with trying to join terror group seek home supervision

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Tnuza Jamal Hassan
This photo provided by the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office shows Tnuza Jamal Hassan. A criminal complaint said Hassan, 19, a former student at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, admitted to investigators that she started the fires on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, including one in a dormitory that housed a day care center. She's charged with first-degree arson.
Ramsey County Sheriff's Office via AP

Lawyers for a 19-year-old former St. Catherine University student charged with attempting to join al-Qaida have asked the court to consider releasing Tnuza Hassan from federal detention and placing her under the supervision of her mother and sister.

The release plan submitted Thursday by Hassan's attorneys, Robert Sicoli and Joshua Johnson,  said they are requesting that the court reconsider a previous detention order based on new information.

On Feb. 12, Magistrate Judge Steven E. Rau entertained the idea of releasing Hassan to her family under house arrest once he learned more about her family.

He wondered whether "we are continuing her self-radicalization" if Hassan remains in detention. "We are emphasizing it. We are encouraging it," he said.

Still, he agreed with federal prosecutors who argued that Hassan was a flight risk and a danger to the community. Rau ordered her detained in Sherburne County as the case proceeds.

"I don't feel confident enough in what your family can do," Rau said in February.

On Sept. 19, 2017, Hassan attempted to travel to Afghanistan to join al-Qaida. A day later, her family reported her missing. A court document says Hassan got as far as Dubai, "but for a lack of visa, she may well be in the ranks of (al-Qaida) at this moment."

And then on Dec. 29, 2017, Hassan again tried to leave the United States for Ethiopia with her mother. Authorities stopped Hassan from boarding the flight to Ethiopia and her mother chose not to travel on to Addis Ababa.

Hassan again disappeared from her family's Minneapolis apartment on Jan. 10. A week later, she was found hiding in a dorm lounge at St. Catherine after she allegedly set fires at several buildings at the university on Jan. 17, including a daycare center that housed 33 children. No one was injured.

In their motion filed on Thursday, attorneys Sicoli and Johnson wrote that, if released, Hassan will reside at the home of her mother Fatuma Robele and sister Chaltu Abdulkadir in Brooklyn Park. They are willing to take custody of her and "follow all orders of the Court to ensure Ms. Hassan's future appearances in court and to ensure the safety of the community," the lawyers wrote in the motion.

If released, Hassan will be prohibited from accessing the internet, the lawyers wrote. She will also be monitored by GPS tracking and she won't leave the house without the permission of the U.S. Probation Office, which met with Hassan's mother and sister.

"On information and belief, there was nothing in the home visit or background checks that was problematic," the motion said.

Hassan's mother, Fatuma Robele, is a naturalized U.S. citizen who came to the United States in 1992 as a refugee from Ethiopia. Robele, who has no criminal record, worked as a patient care technician from 1999 to 2017, but stopped working in June 2017 due to a stroke.

In an affidavit included in the motion, Robele said she is currently at home and will supervise her daughter full time if Hassan is released from custody to home detention with GPS monitoring. She said she speaks to her daughter every day.

The affidavit said Robele will cooperate with authorities and contact them if she feels her daughter is not complying with the rules set by the court.

Hassan's 25-year-old sister, Chaltu Abdulkadir, who wants to become a pharmacist after she graduates from Metropolitan State University, is also willing to help supervise Hassan, according to a second affidavit signed by Abdulkadir.  Hassan's trial is set for May 21, but her lawyers requested an extension until July 23.

"This is a complicated case, in which the government to date has provided defense counsel with thousands of pages of discovery in electronic format, and is continuing to provide defense counsel with more discovery from search warrants of electronic devices," the lawyers wrote.