MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — Closing arguments are underway in the terror trial of three young Twin Cities men accused of trying to join ISIS.
The trial is entering its fourth week and has revealed details of what prosecutors say was a plot by more than a dozen young men to travel to Syria to join and fight for ISIS.
Facing charges are Abdirahman Yasin Daud, Mohamed Abdihamid Farah — both 22 — and 21-year-old Guled Ali Omar. They have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit murder outside the United States, and other charges.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys have presented very different versions of what the young men were trying to do before their arrests in April of 2015.
Prosecutors spent more than two weeks presenting evidence they say shows the men were part of a larger group who conspired to travel to Syria. Evidence included recordings made by an FBI informant.
This afternoon defense attorneys have tried to counter a sweeping prosecution case that accused the three men of not just trying to join ISIS but conspiring to commit murders on behalf of the terror group. Defense attorneys have stressed that the three men were all talk, and were entrapped by a confidential informant who was paid more than $119,000 by the FBI.
Only Omar testified in the case. The two other men chose not to testify and did not call any witnesses in their defense.
Prosecutors believe Omar was the leader of the group of ten young Twin Cities men, all friends, who were charged in this case. Six of the men have pleaded guilty, they could face up to 15 years in prison.
One, Abdi Nur, left Minnesota in May of 2014 and is widely believed to have died fighting for ISIS in Syria.
Prosecutor John Docherty began his closing argument Tuesday by saying “this trial is about the unusually persistent efforts” of the three defendants to join ISIS.
Docherty argued that the evidence was overwhelming that the three had not only conspired to join the terror group but conspired to commit murder for ISIS once they reached Syria.
The prosecutor quoted the testimony of cooperating witness Abdirizak Warsame.
“We knew we would be ordered to kill,” Warsame said, according to prosecutors.
Docherty urged jurors that, when they deliberate, they should listen to secretly recorded conversation made by government informant Abdirahman Bashir. On those recordings the defendants can be heard talking about killing Turkish security officials and Muslims who are not Sunnis.
The prosecutor also pointed to the conversation in which defendant Mohamed Farah can be heard laughing about an ISIS video that shows ISIS prisoners being forced to dig their own graves before they are executed.
The defense attorney who presented closing arguments said the recordings are only young men — barely out of their teens — talking big and trying to one up each other. They argue that it was Bashir, the confidential informant, who came up with key parts of the plot including securing fake passports.
The prosecution sought to deflect doubts about the Bashir’s role, whose secret recordings of the defendants are at the heart of the government’s case.
“Bashir got paid; that recording device did not,” Docherty said. “If you decide not to believe (Bashir), the audio tapes are still there.”
By the end of Tuesday, both Daud and Farah’s lawyers had given their closing arguments. Omar’s lawyer is set to give his closing arguments Wednesday at 9 a.m. The prosecution will then have 50 minutes for rebuttal.
After closing arguments, the jury will receive instructions and deliberation will begin.
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