MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Twin Cities man has been indicted for allegedly helping co-conspirators hold a journalist captive for more than two years.
Abdi Yusuf Hassan, who moved to Minnesota in 1998, is accused of holding three people hostage on the coast of Somalia.
The journalist involved is not named in court papers, but writer Michael Scott Moore gave CBS an account of his capture that lines up exactly with the dramatic story that unfolded Thursday in the Minneapolis federal courthouse. WCCO-TV was the only station in court.
On a crisp winter day, dozens from one of Minnesota’s strongest immigrant communities stood together to stand behind Abdi Yusuf Hassan, filing into the Minneapolis courthouse.
A loved one told WCCO-TV, “He’s innocent, completely innocent.”
But federal investigators say he is not. They say he is a part of an operation of Somali pirates. Journalist Michael Scott Moore was held captive from 2012 to 2014 until a ransom was paid.
“The kidnappers here, will sell me, will sell me to Al Shabaab,” Moore said in one of the videos he was forced to make while kidnapped.
His captors demanded millions from his family and the U.S. government.
“It’s a brutal, brutal experience. They treat people like cattle and they feed you just enough to keep people alive,” Moore said in a CNN interview. “I was beaten, I was slugged, I was beaten several times for sure.”
Federal papers show the captured journalist identified Hassan as one of the leaders of the operation. According to the indictment, Hassan speaks English and served as a translator for the hostage-takers and regularly communicated with the journalist.
Community activist Omar Jamal testified in court Thursday on behalf of his friend.
“He was in no way, shape or form that he was involved. Having known him for 20 years, the kind of guy he is, I don’t think so,” Jamal said.
He says Hassan has been working in Somalia the past few years to help rebuild the government, and that Hassan was simply helping translate negotiations with the journalist’s kidnappers, trying to help.
Hassan claimed to have worked for the Minister of the Interior and Security for Galmudug State in Somalia. He said a major part of that job was to arrange for the release of a kidnapped person in Galmudug. He stated he was involved in arranging for the release of an American hostage, and identified the journalist by his middle name.
“I don’t think he was involved in this. We’ll let the system take its course, but he just happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Jamal said.
This case will now be heard in New York. A Minnesota judge decided today Hassan will be detained here and then escorted to that hearing in New York.