By Jim Kouri
This week in federal court in the District of Minnesota, a jury found two Rochester, Minnesota, women guilty of providing material support to Al Shabaab, a designated terrorist organization linked to al-Qaeda and based in Somalia.
After a 10-day trial, on Thursday the jury convicted Amina Farah Ali, 35, and Hawo Mohamed Hassan, 64, both naturalized U.S. citizens from Somalia, of one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a U.S. State Department-designated terrorist organization.
In addition, Ali was convicted of 12 counts of providing material support to Al Shabaab, while Hassan was also convicted of two counts of making false statements to authorities.
Ali was detained by authorities following today’s verdict. Hassan was also detained but will be shortly transferred to a halfway house.
The evidence presented during the trial revealed that the defendants provided support to Al Shabaab from September 17, 2008, through July 19, 2010. Specifically, the evidence established that Ali communicated by telephone with Al Shabaab members in Somalia who requested financial assistance for the group’s ongoing terrorist operations.
Ali, Hassan, and others raised money for al Shabaab by soliciting funds door-to-door in Somali communities in Minneapolis, Rochester, and other cities in the United States and Canada. In addition, the defendants raised money by participating in teleconferences that featured speakers who encouraged donations to support Al Shabaab. Ali also raised funds under the false pretense that the funds were for the poor and needy in poverty-stricken Somalia.
Ali and others then transferred funds to Al Shabaab through various money remittance companies. Ali and others used false names to identify the recipients of the funds in order to conceal that the funds were being provided to the terrorist group. The indictment lists 12 money transfers directed to Al Shabaab by Ali.
The defendants and others committed several overt acts in order to carry out the fund-raising conspiracy. For example, on October 26, 2008, Ali hosted a teleconference during which an unindicted co-conspirator told listeners that it was not the time to help the poor and needy in Somalia; rather, it was time to give to the Mujahidin.
Ali and Hassan recorded $2,100 in pledges at the conclusion of the teleconference. On February 10, 2009, Ali conducted another fund-raising teleconference during which she told listeners to “forget about the other charities” and focus on “the jihad.”
On July 14, 2009, the day after the FBI executed a search warrant at her home, Ali telephoned her primary Al Shabaab contact, saying, “I was questioned by the enemy here . . . . they took all my stuff and are investigating it . . . do not accept calls from anyone.”
In addition, when Hassan was questioned by agents in an investigation involving international terrorism, she made false statements.
For their crimes, the convicted women face a potential maximum penalty of 15 years in prison for the charge of conspiracy to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization. Ali also faces a potential 15 years for each count of providing material support to a terrorist organization, while Hassan faces a potential eight years for each count of making a false statement.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Michael J. Davis will determine their sentences at a future hearing, yet to be scheduled.