Anti-war leaders speak out against FBI entrapment of Somali youth, protest planned
Minneapolis, MN – After a few days of preliminary motions and jury selection, opening arguments were presented on May 11 at the trial of three young local Somali men. Many members of the Somali community and the local peace movement are attending the trial. The Minnesota Coalition to Defend the Muslim Community, which includes the Anti-War Committee, is planning to organize rallies every Thursday of the trial to support with the families of the accused and to speak out against government abuses in this case.
The next solidarity rally is set for Thursday, May 12 at 4:30 p.m. at the U.S. District Court, 300 S. 4th Street, Minneapolis.
Supporters are mobilizing to fill the court room each day. They can sign-up for specific shifts at http://goo.gl/forms/UJNgctc2iq
Members of the peace movement are concerned about the role of FBI entrapment. Sophia Hansen-Day, a member of the Anti-War Committee, explains, “Since 9/11, the U.S. government has targeted Muslim community members and manufactured terror cases to sow fear and distrust, to justify massive spending for the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, and to criminalize people whose homelands are being bombed by the U.S. government and who speak out against U.S. foreign policy.”
Hansen-Day continues, “Now, East African youth are facing trumped up charges of ‘conspiracy to commit murder abroad’ for allegedly conspiring to join ISIL/Daesh in Syria. In reality, there would be no case if not for the FBI informant who was paid $41,000 to entrap these young men by encouraging them to travel abroad and making arrangements such as buying passports.”
Sarah Martin, a board member of Women Against Military Madness, has been in the courtroom every day. She explains the importance of this trial, “In the dangerous political climate of xenophobia, racism and anti-Islam hatred being espoused by extremists and even presidential candidates – conditions are ripe for suspicion of Somalis. The Department of Justice is contributing to this suspicion by targeting Muslims across the country – many from the countries under U.S. attack – using baseless suspicions.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Winter, who is prosecuting the Somali youth, is well known to Martin and Hansen-Day. Several members of the Anti-War Committee and Sarah Martin were among the targets of FBI raids and a grand jury investigation in 2010, a case that Winter also played a role in. For two years, undercover law enforcement agents spied on the anti-war, international solidarity and Palestinian activists. After nearly six years, their case remains open. Despite agents’ claims that the activists were ‘providing material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations,’ none have been charged.
“Sitting in that courtroom, hearing how these young men were spied upon, manipulated and entrapped, by someone who claimed to be their friend but was on the FBI’s payroll, I am reminded of our own experience, and how we too could be put on trial for our thoughts and words,” said Anti-War Committee member Jess Sundin who was also a target of the 2010 FBI raids. “These young men never hurt a soul, and yet they face the possibility of life in prison. How can we not stand with them and their families against this injustice?” Sundin also urges support for the Palestine American leader Rasmea Odeh who is facing jail and deportation on a trumped up immigration charge.