Sentencing is expected this week in a U.S. District Court in Minneapolis for nine Somali Americans from Minnesota convicted in a government probe of terror recruitment and financing for a group in Somalia linked to al-Qaida, the Associated Press reports.
The sentencings would mark a closing chapter in a long and complex case dating to 2007, when small groups of young Somali men began holding secret meetings in Minnesota to plot a return to Somalia to wage jihad against Ethiopians, the AP reports.
More than 20 young men have left Minnesota to join al-Shabab in the last six years, officials say. Some have died, several are still being sought by authorities, and others have been prosecuted in what the FBI has said is one of the largest efforts to recruit U.S. fighters to a foreign terrorist organization, the AP notes.
Three days of hearings are expected this week in front of U.S. District Judge Michael Davis to determine the fate of the nine men, the Star Tribune reports.
Prosecutors say the nine defendants are recruiters, supporters and participants in Al-Shabab, and the U.S. attorney’s office is recommending sentences ranging from five to 50 years, the Star Tribune reports.
Lawyers for the men say their clients are not terrorists, and they argue that the men got caught up in a patriotic effort to defend their homeland against invading Ethiopian troops. The men did not realize until too late that Al-Shabab’s actions had devolved into atrocities, their lawyers say.
The Star Tribune has an at-a-glance timeline of events in the case.