Nov. 14, 2016 (GIN) – After a closely-watched trial, three young Somali-Americans may enter a “deradicalization” program after being found guilty of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State.
Two of the young men have already received lighter sentences for cooperating with the government.
The harshest sentence of 10 years went to Zacharia Abdurahman who pleaded guilty but did not cooperate with the U.S. government against his friends, who also plotted to join Islamic State. He was 19 at the time of his arrest in 2014 by FBI agents.
The three told Judge Michael Davis they were inspired by ISIS propaganda videos and social media to seek out the group to join up. Of nine men who initially formed a “terrorist cell,” according to Judge Davis, most were in their teens when they got caught up in ISIS’ sophisticated social media campaign to recruit new followers.
Minnesota’s Somali-American community leaders were shocked at the magnitude of the arrests and charges and contend that the government was over-reaching in its anti-terrorism efforts when it comes to arresting impressionable young Muslim men who recently graduated from high school and never left the United States.
None of the men on trial has previously committed a crime.
Yusuf Abdurahman, father of one of the defendants, said the community needed to have a frank conversation about how young men like his son could become entranced by terror groups like ISIL.
“This is our reality,” Abdurahman said of his son, Zacharia. “My son is in jail now because of that reality.”
Also sentenced Monday was Abdirazak Warsame and Abdullahi Yusuf, both of whom cooperated with the U.S. government. Warsame received 30 months in prison, while Yusuf was released for time served in prison — the 21 months he already had been in jail. Both testified against their former friends.
Minnesota prosecutor Andrew Luger said in a statement Monday, “The hard work of rehabilitating those who seek to engage in ideological violence must continue. Judge Davis recognized that fact today in his considered sentences for those defendants who cooperated with the government and have begun to disengage from ISIL’s violent ideology.”
That the judge would consider deradicalization as part of a sentence “is absolutely new in the U.S.” said Daniel Koehler, an expert from Germany who started his career counseling neo-Nazi extremists and now runs a nonprofit there that helps implement deradicalization programs.
Since early 2014, more than 100 Americans have been arrested on charges related to Islamic State. Mostly U.S. citizens in their early 20s, they are often convicted of crimes that carry a maximum of decades in prison.
Given their youth, many IS sympathizers still have time for rehabilitation, defense lawyers say, but federal prisons lack counseling geared specifically at terrorism disengagement. w/pix of woman holding picture of defendant Guled Omar, now 21