A federal judge Tuesday refused to dismiss an indictment against two Rochester, Minn. women charged with raising money for al-Shabaab in Somalia. Judge Michael J. Davis, chief judge for the U.S. District Court of Minnesota, rejected arguments by Amina Farah Ali, 34, and Hawo Mohamed Hassan, 64, that their alleged conduct is protected by the First Amendment, and that the prosecution violated their rights to freedom of religious expression, freedom of association, and due process.
Ali and Hassan claim they were collecting clothes and raising money for refugees in Somalia. But Judge Davis's ruling and the indictment that was unsealed when the pair was arrested last August paint a very different picture.
According to the indictment, Ali communicated with individuals in Somalia who sought financial help for al-Shabaab. It alleges that Hassan, Ali, and others went door- to- door in Somali communities in Rochester, Minneapolis and other locations in the United States and Canada to raise money. The government says Ali hosted several teleconferences to aid in the conspiracy, including one where she told listeners to "forget about the other charities" and focus on "the jihad."
In rejecting efforts to dismiss the indictment, Judge Davis pointed to evidence that law enforcement had "learned of Ali's involvement in a conspiracy to provide material support to al-Shabaab and other individuals or groups associated with acts of terrorism and violence by providing funds to various parties in Somalia through the hawala system."
During the investigation, the FBI learned that Ali was in contact with an individual "who had been installed as the al-Shabaab governor" of two Somali regions "and had announced the killing of members of parliament," Judge Davis wrote.
He rejected the defense claim that authorities lacked probable cause to obtain a search warrant during the investigation, noting that a government affidavit "describes several instances of Ali's involvement in numerous telephone calls and teleconferences in which Ali and others were overheard discussing the need to raise funds for the mujahidin, the 'youth' or al-Shabaab, and the jihad." Moreover, "the affidavit includes information of Ali's direct knowledge of persons directly involved in al-Shabaab."