ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) —The situation was tense Thursday as four of the six Minnesotans accused of trying to leave the country and join the group ISIS appeared in federal court. There were angry outbursts and cries for justice as the suspects were ordered jailed until trial.
The four men, who were arrested in Minnesota, were in court starting at 9 a.m. The other two defendants, who were arrested in San Diego, will appear in court in California on Friday.
The FBI has accused the men of working over the course of 10 months to join ISIS. They said the defendants still looked for new ways to leave Minnesota to fight for the terror group — even when their co-conspirators were caught and charged.
FBI agents worked with a confidential informant who told them the group of men talked about and planned to leave the United States for Syria. They said they were able to confirm that through their own investigation, including taped conversations between the informant and suspects.
Approximately 200 community members — more than even the overflow area could hold — turned out for the proceedings. Their anger seemed fueled by a revelation early in the day that the friend-turned-confidential informant who has collected the most damaging evidence against the suspects has been paid $12,000 by the government. It appears the informant was close friends with the six men arrested. He has since been relocated for his safety.
Though there were no arrests, one man was escorted out the federal courthouse and told not to return.
Among those visibly emotional following the judge’s order was Halima, the grandmother of one of the suspects.
“We need help, Somali community,” she said. “We need help.”
Another observer, Farhai Abdulle, said the government should do more to prevent terror recruiting. The government Thursday argued that the evidence shows that the men were recruiting each other. An FBI agent testified that the conversations taped by the confidential informant show that even after they had been stopped from getting on planes with the intent to get to Syria and join ISIS, they kept trying.
An imam explained many in the community believe the young men were set up and are innocent.
“The majority of the community was expecting those young people would be released because they did not show any threat to the public safety while they were here,” Hassan Mohamud, of the Somali Dawa Center, said.
Even the defense attorneys have argued in court that, before now, their clients had a clean record.
The defendants, considering the seriousness of the charges they face, appeared to be in good spirits and could be seen talking and laughing with one another during breaks.