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Illinois man found guilty in Minnesota mosque bombing

A federal jury found Michael Hari guilty on all five counts for his role in planning the 2017 bombing at the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center.
Michael Hari

A federal jury has found the Illinois man accused in the 2017 bombing at a Bloomington mosque guilty on all the charges against him. 

The jury, after half a day of deliberations and a five-week trial, found 49-year-old Michael Hari, of Clarence, Illinois, guilty for his role in the bombing of the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center (DAF) on Aug. 5, 2017, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a news release Wednesday. 

He was convicted on all five counts in his indictment, including using force to interfere with the free practice of religion and conspiring to commit felonies using explosives. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 35 years in prison. A sentencing date has not been scheduled.

“Michael Hari’s goal in bombing the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center was to spread hatred, instill fear, and threaten the constitutionally protected right to freedom of religion," U.S. Attorney of Minnesota Erica H. MacDonald said in a statement. "This act of violence, driven by hatred and ignorance, shook our community.

“Today’s guilty verdicts represent a condemnation of that hatred and uphold our fundamental right to live and worship free from the threat of violence and discrimination," she added. "... I also want to extend my deepest gratitude to the members of DAF who, despite their fears, showed strength and resiliency by testifying at trial. I hope today’s verdict offers a sense of peace as the community moves forward.”

Following Wednesday's verdict, members of CAIR-MN held a news conference saying it was a day of relief for them but they're still concerned about the rise of white supremacy groups across the U.S. 

The trial

Throughout Hari's trial, prosecutors described him as a man who hated Muslims and believed they should leave the United States.

In the summer of 2017, prosecutors said Hari, a former sheriff's deputy, established a terrorist militia group in his town in rural Illinois and recruited two men, promising them money, to join the group and help him bomb the mosque. 

On Aug. 4, Hari, Michael McWhorter, 31, and Joe Morris, 25, rented a pickup truck and drove from Illinois to Bloomington, Minnesota, to carry out his plot. 

At around 5 a.m. on Aug. 5, at Hari's direction, Morris broke a window in the Imam's office at Dar al-Farooq and threw a plastic container with a mix of fuel and gas into the office, prosecutors said. McWhorter, also at Hari's direction, then lit a fuse on a 20-pound black powder pipe bomb and threw it inside, which ignited the gas-diesel mixture. 

The act caused extensive fire and smoke damage to the Islamic Center. 

At the time of the bombing, several people had gathered in the mosque for morning prayers. No one was injured in the attack, but members of the Twin Cities Muslim community have said they suffered psychological trauma. 

McWorter and Harris were both charged for their roles in the bombing, and in January 2019 they pleaded guilty. They testified against Hari during his trial, helping show he was the one who orchestrated the bombing plot. They both face a 35-year mandatory minimum sentence, the Star Tribune reports

After Hari was convicted on Wednesday, he called Star Tribune reporter Andy Mannix from jail and read him a prepared statement, which said he's protesting his "sham trial" and going on a hunger strike to prove he's innocent. 

Hari was convicted of the following crimes: 

  • One count of intentionally defacing, damaging, and destroying any religious real property because of the religious character of that property
  • One county of intentionally obstructing, and attempting to obstruct, by force and the threat of force, the free exercise of religious beliefs. 
  • One count of conspiracy to commit federal felonies by means of fire and explosives
  • One count of carrying and using a destructive device during and in relation to crimes of violence. 
  • One count of possession of an unregistered destructive device. 

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