MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Five Minnesota terror suspects will remain in jail, at least for now, as they wait for their trial.

But a judge left the possibility open that he would consider putting them in halfway houses or some other less restrictive setting. Minnesota’s Chief Judge, Michael Davis, presided over five separate hearings for the young men who are all friends and are all accused of trying to join ISIS.

Four of the men were arrested last month and were indicted along with two others arrested in California. The fifth young man, Hamza Ahmed, was arrested and charged back in February.

The judge asked each of the defense attorneys to think outside the box in coming up with an alternative to jail, but that would still keep the community safe. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that government prosecutors did not reject this out of hand, but said they would be willing under the right conditions to consider this too.

In five separate hearings for the defendants, none of whom have any criminal records, Judge Davis said he would be open to considering a less restrictive option than jail.

Jon Hopeman, the attorney for 19-year-old  Zacharia Abdurahmen, proposed a possible  plan that would combine  halfway house detention with supervision by elders at a south Minneapolis mosque. The mosque Imam Mahumed Sharif-Ali.

“I will help. I will help, it’s all our kids, the community. It’s all our community,” Sharif-Ali said.

Up to a hundred family and friends attended the hearings. Judge Davis spoke to each of the suspect’s families telling, them he appreciated their presence at the hearing.

The Judge’s willingness to consider a halfway house detention comes one day after he ordered Abdullahi Yusuf, who has pleaded guilty in a related terror case, to be taken out of a halfway house and put back in jail. The Judge’s order sites an unspecified possible rule violation by Yusuf.

Tensions in the community remain high over the case, in large part because of the role of a paid FBI informant who was a one-time friend of the young men. After Tuesday’s hearings, community activists Mohamud Noor and Sadik Warfa, who have been critical of the government’s case, praised the judge.

“The parents feel hope and really all of us the most important thing is let the process go forward Judge Davis has experience handling these cases,” Noor said.

If in fact these young men end up in halfway houses with some type of court ordered community intervention, it would be a dramatic shift in how the government handles terror suspects. Judge Davis appears to be trying to create not just an alternative way to keep these men locked, up but also to try and turn their thinking around.

Esme Murphy

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