- Associated Press - Thursday, October 20, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS Two Minnesota women were convicted Thursday of conspiring to funnel money to a terrorist group in Somalia as part of what prosecutors called a “deadly pipeline” sending money and fighters from the U.S. to the group known as al-Shabab.

The jury deliberated about 20 hours after getting the case at the end of the day Monday.

Amina Farah Ali, 35, and Hawo Mohamed Hassan, 64, were each charged in federal court with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Ali faced 12 counts of providing such support, charged with sending more than $8,600 to the group from September 2008 through July 2009, while Hassan faced two counts of lying to the FBI.

Both were found guilty on all counts. The terrorism-related counts each carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, while each count of lying to the FBI could bring up to eight years of incarceration.

The women, both U.S. citizens of Somali descent, were among 20 people charged in Minnesota’s long-running federal investigations into recruiting and financing for al-Shabab, which the U.S. considers a terrorist group with ties to al Qaeda. Investigators believe at least 21 men left Minnesota - home to the country’s largest Somali community - to join al-Shabab.

Though others have pleaded guilty to related charges, the two women were the first to go on trial.

Ali stood before the judge after the verdict and spoke defiantly.

“I am very happy,” she said through an interpreter, asserting she knew she was going to heaven. She condemned people in authority who accused her of wrongdoing and anyone who is against Muslims, saying, “You will go to hell.”

Prosecutors say the two women went door to door in the name of charity and held religious teleconferences to solicit donations, which they then routed to the fighters. Many American-based Somalis say they are protecting their homeland from the Ethiopian army, which many regard as invaders.

The government’s key evidence included hundreds of hours of secretly recorded phone calls, obtained during a 10-month wiretap on Ali’s home and cellphone. Prosecutors say those calls, which included talk of fighting in Somalia and sending money to fighters under false pretenses, show the women knew they were doing something illegal.

Defense attorneys say the women are humanitarians who were giving money to orphans and poor people, as well as a group they felt was working to push foreign troops out of Somalia.

The case was closely watched by the state’s large Somali community, with many saying the wiretaps bred mistrust among immigrants already fearful of government. Dozens of Somalis, mostly women, flocked to court each day to watch. Several women in the courtroom sobbed as they were leaving Thursday.

“I’m real sad,” said Fartun Abdiloor, a Minneapolis woman. “It’s so emotional, so intense. This decision is the opposite of what we expected.”

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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