- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 31, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A federal prosecutor told jurors on Tuesday that three Minnesota men were intent in their efforts to join the Islamic State group in Syria and knew they would be killing people once they got there, but defense attorneys for two of them said their clients were not part of any conspiracy.

Closing arguments began Tuesday in the case of Abdirahman Yasin Daud, 22, Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, 22, and Guled Ali Omar, 21. The three have pleaded not guilty to several charges. The most serious is conspiracy to commit murder outside the United States, which carries the possibility of life in prison. The men are also charged with conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State group and attempting to provide such support.

Prosecutors have alleged the men were part of a larger group of friends who met to plot ways to get to Syria. Over the last three weeks, jurors have heard hours of evidence, including testimony from some former members of the alleged conspiracy and the defendants’ own statements in recordings that were made by a paid FBI informant.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Docherty told jurors the men should be found guilty of all counts against them. He said they were “exceptionally persistent” in efforts to join an “exceptionally violent” group.

He said the men participated “wholeheartedly” in three phases of the conspiracy, which started in the spring of 2014 and ended with the arrest of several members of the group last year.

Docherty referred to recordings made by FBI informant Abdirahman Bashir, which he said provides a “fly-on-the-wall view of this conspiracy.”

“These three defendants convict themselves with the words that come out of their own mouths,” Docherty said. He told jurors to dismiss the defense entrapment argument because the men “were simply given an opportunity to do what they have long yearned to do, what they have long itched to do” - with or without the informant.

Defense attorney Bruce Nestor, representing Daud, said he was not going to deny the secretly recorded conversations that were played in court.

“You’re not going to hear me contest the statements on the audio in terms of actual words; you’re not going to hear me say (Daud) didn’t make the statements attributed to him on the audio,” Nestor said.

But Nestor reminded jurors that Bashir controlled which conversations he would record and when he would turn on the recording device.

In his closing argument, Murad Mohammad, the attorney for Farah, said the three defendants took an interest in Syria because of atrocities being committed against Muslims there - not because they planned to join the Islamic State group.

“These kids got together because they wanted to fulfill a humanitarian goal that ISIL (the Islamic State) wasn’t aligned with,” Mohammad said. He argued that prosecutors had failed to prove conspiracy charges against the young men.

Omar’s attorney is scheduled to present his closing argument Wednesday.

Six other men who were part of the alleged plot have pleaded guilty to various charges, while a 10th man charged in the case is believed to be in Syria.

Young men from Minnesota’s Somali community, the nation’s largest, have been a target for terror recruiters. The FBI has said about a dozen people have left Minnesota to join militant groups fighting in Syria in recent years. Since 2007, more than 22 men have joined al-Shabab in Somalia.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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