Her sentencing hearing Thursday in the Minneapolis Federal Court could seal her fate behind bars for the rest of her life.
A Minnesota humanitarian worker named Amina Farah Ali faces life in prison for charges of providing material support for Al-Shabaab, an armed group in Somalia considered a terrorist organization by a bevy of countries, including the U.S., Australia and Canada. Her sentencing hearing Thursday in the Minneapolis Federal Court could seal her fate behind bars for the rest of her life.
Ali’s case is a controversial one within the Somali-American community, numbering 85,700 according to 2010 U.S. Census statistics. Minnesota is home to the largest Somali community of any U.S. state, claiming at least 25,000, although the number could be much higher. It’s one of the first major cases to shake the Somali refugee community living in the United States.
Amina Ali and Hawo Hassan, two Somali-American women from Rochester, Minn., were accused of providing material support to al-Shabaab, allegedly soliciting donations for the group, dating back to 2008.
Ali was found guilty on all 12 counts by a Minneapolis jury because of her role in sending wire transfers of $8,600 to the group from September 2008 to July 2009.
The terrorism-related counts each carry up to 15 years in prison, while lying to the FBI carries up to eight years. The final sentencing is expected this week. For most observers, it may be an open-and-shut case — but a few supporters contend that Ali had sent money to a charitable organization and was wrongfully accused of supporting terrorism.
The Committee to Stop FBI Repression (CSFR), an activist organization, has spoken out against Ali’s sentencing, posting online, “[Ali] raised money to help destitute people in her homeland and stood accused of helping al-Shabaab, an Islamist organization that fights to free Somalia from foreign domination. The case of Amina Farah Ali is one of the many examples of repression that have been directed at the Somali community.”
Most consider al-Shabaab to be a terrorist organization due to its alliance with al-Qaeda and other extremist groups. Others contend that decades of civil war and foreign intervention in the Horn of Africa created the circumstances for armed groups to oppose the occupation by foreign forces.
CSFR adds: “Amina Ali did nothing wrong. She worked hard to help people in need and now faces life in prison for her efforts. She deserves the support of everyone who cares about justice.”
Similarly, defense attorneys portrayed her as a humanitarian during previous hearings, giving money to orphans and poor people, as well as a group they felt was working to push foreign troops out of Somalia.
Prosecutors said that she raised thousands by soliciting funds through door-to-door appeals in Somali communities in Minneapolis, Rochester and other locations in the United States and Canada. She is also accused of gathering money through direct appeals during teleconferences that featured speakers openly encouraging donations to support al-Shabaab.
The women were among 20 people charged in a long-running federal investigation into groups of Somalis in Minnesota accused of recruiting and financing for the terrorist group.