Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Supporters of Minnesota Somalian American Women Kept Outside Courthouse

Supporters of Minn. women kept outside courthouse

By AMY FORLITI Associated Press

Two Minnesota women accused of funneling money to a terror group in Somalia were among a group of people briefly kept outside the federal courthouse in Minneapolis on Tuesday as jurors deliberated the case inside.

Dozens of supporters of Amina Farah Ali, 35, and Hawo Mohamed Hassan, 64, were in the courthouse that morning, many of them sitting on the floor outside the trial courtroom. But at midday, they went outside the building to hold a rally to support the women, and many were not allowed back in _ including the defendants _ amid security concerns about the group's size.

Most were kept outside for more than an hour. They were initially asked to leave because standard practice is to limit large groups gathered in the lobby, said Rob Winchester, spokesman for Federal Protective Services, which provides security for most federal buildings. The group left peacefully.

But when Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis found out what happened, he told guards that the group could come back in as long as they followed the rules, Winchester said.

"It was a good thing, the way it went down," Winchester said.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Thomas Volk said he wasn't aware of any threats and the issue seemed to be one of capacity. Volk said there were some extra security measures during the trial because of the increased public interest, such as enhanced screening of vehicles.

Ali and Hassan are charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Ali faces 12 additional charges of providing such support, and Hassan faces two counts of lying to the FBI.

The women, who are of Somali descent, claim they were collecting money for charity, including al-Shabab fighters who they believed were helping protect their war-torn homeland. The women said they didn't know al-Shabab was considered a foreign terrorist organization.

The jury completed its first full day of deliberations Tuesday without a verdict.

Deliberations will resume Wednesday.

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