The Trial of A terrorist
Somali Terror Trial… as it was coined by the media has been going on for a week now in Minneapolis. Mahamud Said Omar, 46, of Minneapolis, faces five charges related to helping a terrorist organization and conspiring to kill people overseas. He is accused of giving money and encouragement to some of the 20 or more Minnesota Somali men who left to fight in Somalia with Al-Shabab, which is designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. government. 18 people have been charged in connection with an ongoing FBI investigation. Omar is the first to go on trial. According to family members and most of Somali community I talked to, Omar is a simple-minded janitor at a Minneapolis mosque, where he encountered a number of younger men who set off to fight what they believed were Ethiopian troops in Somalia in 2007 and 2008. The FBI believes Omar has been funneling money to Somali young men and helping them make travel arrangements to Somalia. On the witness stand today was Kamal Said Hassan, 27, is one of more than 20 Twin Cities men who traveled to their native Somalia in 2007 and 2008 to fight with Al-Shabab, designated by the U.S. government in February 2008 as a terrorist organization. Mr. Hassan left the group, returned to the United States and was arrested. “He pleaded guilty to conspiring to “kill people overseas”. On Thursday October 10th, I attended the So called Somali terror trail, I went to the trail not to report but out of curiosity, to educate myself as a Muslim American, to how American justice system works, specially when there is a highly politicized trail like the Somali terror case. The trial was held in the new U.S district court building across from the jail house in downtown Minneapolis, it was a beautiful sunny fall day, once you get the federal building, in the heart of downtown, first thing comes in mind, who designed the landscape in front of that building, a big ugly pile of green bumps that its authentic purpose escapes me, a vegetation wasteland, that looks like a Muslim cemetery on steroid, which I hope it is not a presage to what to it becomes in the courtroom inside the building. What it strikes me most once I got inside the U.S. district court building is the absence of any sign of law enforcement, once you walk in, you are facing with a big empty hall ends with a small an airport like checking station, “leave all your belongs in this pin” politely asked a blain clothed officer, you go through the metal dictator, people are relaxed than the airport one, the trial seems is the only game in town, they just tell you “it is the 15th floor” without even asking. Once I got on the 15th floor, on the door there was a small sign in English and Somali- I think- indicates that all electronic devices must be turned off, you open the door a small lady officer was holding a big dog, the dog was like everybody there calm, I don’t know the purpose of having a dog at this juncture, we all already inside and well checked, but I know a lots of Muslims specially Somalis will avoid any situation that involves dogs, even if it means missing out on the “Somali Terror Trial”, the only Somali I saw in the court were on the witness stand. You get inside the courtroom, the reverence in the courtroom was very palpable, well structured chorographically of hierarchy of authority, you can easily tell who is who inside the courtroom, the chief U.S. District Judge, Michael Davis
taking the chief place, the highest front raw, behind him huge pictures of other chief justices, hanging on the wall, like Shia Ayatollahs, down on his left sitting Khaled Hassan in his jail jump orang suit, facing the chief judge, on the left the 15 jurors, 11 whites two blacks and two Asians, a typical Somali peers selection, an the right of the chief judge, the lawyers and the accused, Omar Sharif, according to his lawyer, he went to Somalia to a attend a wedding, now he has been in custody for 2 years, his lawyer was cross examining the FBI witness, the calmed Khaled Said Hassan, it a fascinating display of confusion and miscommunication of cross cultures definition, I don’t how the jurors going to keep up with this maze, a big projector flashes the pictures of Somalis traveled to Somalia, all bearded Taliban/Qaeda looking duds, with names like Ahmed, Abdi, Omar, Hussein, Mohammed, Hooyo, Kamal, Amo, Mukhtar, Saleh, Dahir, Zakeria, … Im not a lawyer but for a causal ear, the defense questioning was loaded and confusing, mixing the names with nicknames, places with times, Abdi became Abti, “you went Davannies and Sunray restaurant” asked the lawyer, there was confusion if he went to Davanies restaurant at sunrise: to find out later that Sunray is the name of Somali restaurant , even for an Arab Muslim like me, I was lost in the name calling maze, I didn’t know who did what to whom, and who is a witness and whom is the accused, but every time I hear the name Ahmed, I got an electric shock and I checked my ID and made sure tat my Cell is off. The trial went like a bad western movies with different seen,…first let us start with the Kufar seen, where the lawyer was trying to take the trial to the jihad realm … Q: ” you were trained to kill Al Kufar” … the non-Muslim on a Muslim land. A: Not true sir, only Ethiopians. Q you pray every time you were meeting with Al Shabab” A… when was time for pray, we prayed- Q:” In your study of Quran, you studied the jihad verses.? A: we study everything Sir … , Q you were fighting all the way to Jerusalem, right? A. .. don’t know that sir. Q You had anti American views, A. I never had any anti Americans vies. Q Did you like the training (Al Shabab Training). A. … pause, it was hard I didn’t know or rest!, then the ungrateful Muslim seen, Q. you were giving the privilege of American citizenship.. , Probably in this place here, … you took an oath, remember the oath…,A. not exactly but I know it sir. Q loyalty to American… you were giving a passport, …you were giving a home… that means you cant be deported… A. yes sir. Q. you went.. Wayzata high School… very good school.. Q. it is sir, the privilege of the American citizenship seen, Q. you are an American citizen? A. yes sir…. 2006. Why would you care about Somalai if the U.S is your country. Try to ask this question to the thousands of American Jews who go to Israel every year. Then the terrorist Vs. brother seen, Q. What made you to go from a law obeying citizen to a terrorist. A. Im not a terrorist Sir. Was Omar a brother? A. he was a friend not a brother. Q how do you become a brother? … A. I wasn’t a brother Sir. Q when you shake your hand do you become a brother. A. I wasn’t a brother sir……, , the War & Peace seen, Q You have gone to Mosque and read the Quran, A. yes sir, You were taught that the Quran was peace? Yes your honor, Q what changed your mind to become a Al Shabab? A. I didn’t your honor. ..I just helped a friend, I didn’t now if this makes me Al Shabab.
Now we moved to who is really Omar seen, Q. you have been talking about a guy by name Omar who came to help you to recruit Somalis? A. Yes sir, #15. Q. do you see my client Omar sitting over there… A. Yes sir. Q. Have you ever seen or talked to Omar sitting right there. A. No Sir… thanks god the judge asked for a recess … At the Somali Terror Trial, and in a very strange absurd way I felt I was on trail, my family and my people were on trail.
The cleanest restaurant in the world, is the one that sells junk food, that how I felt after spending tow days at the so called “Somali Terror Trial” … everything looks good except the justice meal.
Ahmed Tharwat, Freelance writer, public speaker, and the host of the Arab/Muslim American TV show, BelAhdan
Blogs at www.ahmeditv.com