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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Five Minnesota men accused of trying to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group were ordered Tuesday to remain in custody pending trial, but Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis said he's open to exploring less restrictive options.
The five men are all charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization; four are charged with attempting to provide such support. Their attorneys had appealed orders that the men be held while their cases proceed, arguing their clients weren't dangerous or a flight risk.
In separate hearings for each man Tuesday, Davis said no set of conditions could reasonably ensure the community's safety or guarantee that each man would not flee. But he told attorneys to come up with plans that could support their release.
"I'm not rushing into this," Davis said. "It's a slow process. But I'm taking a look at each of these defendants individually."
Earlier this year, Davis allowed another man, Abdullahi Mohamud Yusuf, to be released to a halfway house under a plan that allowed him to work with a group that promotes civic involvement. But Davis ordered Yusuf back into custody, and a court filing indicates a possible violation of halfway house rules. Yusuf's attorneys declined comment Tuesday.
Authorities say a handful of Minnesota residents have traveled to Syria to fight with militants in the last year. At least one has died there. In addition, roughly 22 young Somali men have traveled from Minnesota to Somalia since 2007 to join the terrorist group al-Shabab.
The men who appeared in court Tuesday were Adnan Abdihamid Farah, 19; Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman, 19; Hanad Mustafe Musse, 19; Guled Ali Omar, 20; and Hamza Naj Ahmed, 19. Ahmed was arrested earlier this year. The rest were arrested last month in a case that prompted anger from some in the Somali community who decried the government's use of an informant and said the young men needed help, not jail.
Sadik Warfa, a Somali community advocate, said Davis' words Tuesday were encouraging to frustrated families and community members.
"I think it was a hopeful sign," he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Docherty argued that all five men should remain in custody. He said anyone who associates with the Islamic State group "presents a danger to the community."
Abdurahman's attorney, Jon Hopeman, came to court with a plan for his client's release that would include the involvement of an imam and eight elders from the mosque attended by Abdurahman's father. Abdurahman would live with his father and participate in mosque activities that include meditation, lectures and readings from pacifist chapters of the Quran.
Hopeman said Abdurahman "is not embittered. He is not radicalized, and he is very, very young. ... The community wants him back."
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