Appeals court upholds sentences for three Twin Cities men in ISIS trial
A federal appeals court on Friday upheld the convictions and sentences of three Twin Cities men serving decadeslong terms after being convicted in 2016 of conspiring to murder abroad on behalf of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, Abdirahman Yasin Daud and Guled Ali Omar had challenged sentences handed down by Senior U.S. District Judge Michael Davis after their monthlong trial in the spring of 2016 and took issue with the judges instructions to the jury.
On Friday, a panel of judges from the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who listened to arguments from the mens attorneys in June found no fault with Davis jury instructions, his refusal to substitute Farahs attorney on the eve of trial, or the sentences he handed down in the case.
Farah, 24, Daud, 24, and Omar, 23, were the only three to stand trial in what is still the nations largest counterterrorism prosecution. In all, nine young men from Minnesota were sentenced as part of a plot to follow several other friends overseas to join ISIS.
The case triggered a controversial counter-extremism pilot program aimed at the Twin Cities Somali-American community, whose members have packed court hearings in the case.
Before attorneys for Farah, Daud and Omar delivered arguments in St. Paul in June, several dozen supporters donned orange parkas to simulate prison jumpsuits while demonstrating outside the federal courthouse.
Writing for the court, Judge Raymond Gruender concluded that the evidence in the case clearly showed all defendants understood they would engage to kill on behalf of [ISIS] if they reached Syria. Gruender wrote that the 30-year sentences imposed on Farah and Daud and 35-year term given to Omar were not substantively unreasonable. The appellate panel also sided with Davis decision to reject the defendants requests to argue that they believed they would be fighting overseas in defense of others and that they should be granted combatant immunity for fighting on behalf of an organized government enmeshed in a conflict.
This developing story will be updated throughout the day.
Stephen Montemayor 612-673-1755 Twitter: @smontemayor