MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Somali man who’s been in custody more than two years on terror charges will be released to his family’s home in Minnesota under strict conditions while he awaits sentencing, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
Kamal Said Hassan, 26, was one of about 20 young men who authorities believe left Minnesota to join the terror group al-Shabab in Somalia. Hassan pleaded guilty in 2009 to three counts, including providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
He’s been in custody at the Sherburne County Jail ever since. Over prosecutors’ objections, Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis said Wednesday that Hassan will be released to the family home on Sept. 28 — but will be on 24-hour lockdown, GPS monitoring and other restrictions. He will only be allowed to leave for court-approved medical appointments and court appearances.
“If there is a violation of you being outside the home, smelling the flowers or looking at the birds, understand you will be taken into custody,” said Davis, who later added, “Even though I have a soft voice, I carry a very big stick and I mean what I say.”
Hassan is not to have contact with anyone involved in the case, and is allowed to use only the landline in the house — no cellular phones. He must give the court a list of people with whom he would like to speak.
Hassan’s parents, wife, and younger sister attended the hearing. Davis addressed Hassan’s father directly, making sure he understood the restrictions that would be in place in the family’s home. Among other things, the family’s computers will be monitored. The family agreed to the restrictions.
Hassan’s father declined to comment after the hearing.
According to court documents, Hassan left Minneapolis for Somalia in December 2007. Authorities say he provided support to al-Shabab, namely himself, until August 2008. He attended an al-Shabab training camp in Somalia and continued to follow orders from the terror group after he left the camp.
Al-Shabab was declared a terror organization in early 2008.
Two other men who left Minnesota in late 2007 — Salah Osman Ahmed and Abdifatah Yusuf Isse — have also pleaded guilty to terror charges and have been allowed to live at relatives’ homes while they await sentencing. They are not under electronic monitoring.
In arguing for Hassan’s release, federal defender Manny Atwal pointed to the other cases, and said Hassan has been a model citizen since pleading guilty. She also said he has been honest with, and helpful to, the court. She said he plans to care for his 2-year-old son while confined to the home so his wife can get a job and take English classes.
“The only place he wants to go is to the home of that family right there,” she said, pointing to Hassan’s family members.
Prosecutors had asked that Hassan remain in custody.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Kovats said Hassan should not be released just because Ahmed and Isse are free. Kovats said the custody decisions for Isse and Ahmed were “wrongly decided” by the judge who previously oversaw the Somali investigation and should not be a precedent.
Under sentencing guidelines, Hassan faces a maximum of 38 years in prison when sentenced. A sentencing date has not been set.
Over the past three years, Minnesota has been the center of a federal investigation into travels and recruiting of people from the U.S. to train or fight with al-Shabab. The Minnesota investigation continues.
A total of 20 people in Minnesota have been charged in connection with the travelers and alleged terror financing.
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