Appeals court upholds terrorist fundraising convictions of 2 MN women

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A federal appeals court has rejected a request by two Minnesota women to overturn their convictions on charges they raised money to support the Somali terrorist group al-Shabab.

Amina Farah Ali, 39, and Hawo Mohamed Hassan, 68, both of Rochester, were convicted in 2011 of conspiring to provide material support to al-Shabab by raising money for what prosecutors called “a deadly pipeline” that sent funds and fighters from the U.S. to Somalia. They had claimed they were raising money for the poor.

Ali was sentenced to 20 years in prison and Hassan got a 10-year sentence.

All appeal arguments rejected

They appealed their convictions on several grounds, according to the Associated Press. They argued that the judge who presided over their case, Michael Davis, made comments suggesting he would be prejudiced against them.

Further, they said Davis should have been removed because he held Ali in contempt of court 20 times when she would not stand during the trial, citing her religious beliefs. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals panel said their assertions were "baseless," the Associated Press says.

The women also claimed the government did not have probable cause to record their telephone conversations, and said the two of them should have been tried separately. The appeals panel rejected those arguments as well, the Star Tribune reports.

Authorities tapped the women's telephones and recorded them participating in fundraising conference calls that often featured members of al-Shabab, where participants would pledge money and Hassan would record information about the donors, according to the Star Tribune.

The women are both U.S. citizens of Somali descent. Theirs was the first case to go to trial as part of the federal government's broader efforts to prosecute Minnesotans charged with supporting al-Shabab, MPR News reported.

Investigators believe at least 22 Minnesota men have left the state to join al-Shabab in Somalia since 2007.

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