About 100 members of the Somali community rallied at the Minnesota State Capitol Saturday to support the families of six young men who are charged with trying to join ISIS in Syria.
The demonstrators said they believe the suspects are being treated as though they are already guilty, and they're upset that the men will not be released from jail pending their trials, according to MPR News.
The six men, ages 19-21, were charged Monday with conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization following a 10-month investigation that involved information from a paid confidential informant to the FBI. Four of the men were arrested in Minnesota and the other two in San Diego.
Federal officials claim the men tried on more than one occasion to travel to Syria and join the terrorist group ISIS.
“Even when their co-conspirators were caught and charged, they continued to seek new and creative ways to leave Minnesota to fight for a terror group,” U.S. Attorney Luger said in a news release.
Speakers at the rally claimed the men are innocent and believe they were set up, according to WCCO.
Abdullahi Salim, who said he's a friend of the suspects, told WCCO he doesn't believe they're involved in terrorism.
“I grew up here with them," he said. “These guys are really, really, really helpful guys. Whenever you need help, they’re the first guys you call for help.”
The mother of two of the suspects, Ayan Farah, also said her sons had never been in trouble with the law before, MPR News reports.
The Somali community has been critical of the arrests, and more than 200 people attended a court hearing for the suspects on Thursday.
Some have issued threats against the confidential informant, authorities said Thursday, and a Minneapolis man was charged Friday with making death threats against law enforcement officials who are handling the case, including Luger.
At Saturday's rally, participants said their protests would remain peaceful and disavowed those who were making threats.
They also called for leaders in the city and state to help the Somali community identify those who are convincing young men to become terrorists.
"This is not a problem for the Somalis. It's a Minnesota problem," said Mohamud Noor, one of the rally organizers, according to MPR. "We can defeat this process if we all come together."
U.S. prosecutors say dozens of people from Minnesota have gone overseas, or tried to, in support of the Islamic State. Other young Somali men were recruited to return to their homeland several years ago in support of another terrorist group, al-Shabab.