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Prosecutors: Plans for terror defendants’ release ‘untested’

FILE - In this combination of 2015 file photos provided by the Sherburne County, Minnesota, Sheriff's Office are Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman, left, and Hanad Mustafe Musse, right. The Minnesota men are both charged with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to the Islamic State group and one count of attempting to provide such support. (Sherburne County Sheriff's Office via AP)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Three men accused of trying to leave Minnesota to join the Islamic State group have not renounced the group’s violent ideology, and proposals for their pretrial release won’t adequately protect the community or guarantee that they’ll show up for court, prosecutors said in a court filing Tuesday.

The document was filed in advance of Wednesday hearings on defense attorneys’ proposals to release Hamza Naj Ahmed, 21, and Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman and Hanad Mustafe Musse, both 19. The men, Americans of Somali decent, are among seven people recently charged with plotting to join the terror group in Syria.

The proposals were crafted by the defense with input from Somali community members and religious leaders. They include options for housing, religious education, volunteering and other activities that defense attorneys say are designed to steer the men in a positive direction, assure the community’s safety and ensure the men attend court hearings.

Prosecutors disagree.

“Jobs, family, school and attendance at mosque did not stop the defendants from trying to flee before, and will not stop them from trying again,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Winter wrote.

Winter said the proposals are untested, and community members who agreed to participate have no experience in supervising terror suspects.

“It is the dangerous intentions of the defendants themselves that concern the government here. Indeed, there is no evidence that the defendants are seeking intervention — rather, it is being foisted upon them by other well-intentioned individuals,” Winter said.

U.S. District Judge Michael Davis, who invited attorneys to come up with the community-involved plans, will consider the proposals Wednesday.

The plan for Abdurahman includes regular counseling from an imam and three elders at a mosque that preaches against violent extremism, along with opportunities to work with children and to resume classes at a community college. Ahmed’s and Musse’s plans have similar options.

Sheikh Abdisalam Adam, the imam at another mosque, said he views the men as victims stuck between cultures and searching for identity. Adam has filed papers supporting Musse’s and Ahmed’s plans and says his goal is to “try to redirect their desire for meaning and social engagement into something more productive here at home.”

However, Winter noted the men took extraordinary steps to join the Islamic State group even while they knew they were under FBI surveillance. Winter also cited a conversation in which Abdurahman allegedly told an FBI informant about his stance on efforts to de-radicalize him.

In that March 15 conversation, Abdurahman said another man who tried to go to Syria — and later pleaded guilty to a terror charge — was participating in a de-radicalization program as an experiment.

“With me, all of us, we’re hopeless, we’re not gonna be in a program, bro. We will straight up serve time,” Abdurahman allegedly said. “They know they cannot change you. Because you’re an adult, you know.”

Authorities say Ahmed, Abdurahman and Musse took a bus from Minneapolis to New York City in November and were stopped at JFK Airport before they could travel overseas. Ahmed was arrested in February, and Musse and Abdurahman in April.

Investigators have said a handful of Minnesota residents have traveled to Syria to fight with militants. Since 2007, more than 22 young Somali men have also traveled from Minnesota to Somalia to join the terrorist group al-Shabab.

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