Practically everything about this trial, including the real reason the case is being pursued, is political. The real reason the weak case is being pursued is for propaganda purposes.
The government gets three for one. 1. It gets to further scare the U.S. population into believing there is a real domestic terroristic threat, thus making it easier to solicit funds for homeland security and further justifying the U.S. military defense budget. 2. It creates suspicion of Muslims in the U.S., ultimately justifying anti-Islam paranoia. 3. It seeks to drive a wedge between the Somali community from the rest of the community. And it doesn’t hurt their efforts that in this case the Muslims are Black.
Of course it’s political. The young Somali’s were trying to go to Syria to fight against the Syrian government of Assad, which has committed major atrocities, including gassing its own population. This is the same government that has been opposed by the U.S. government and has been bombed by U.S. war planes along with ISIS.
If politics has to do with the ability to demonstrate one’s power over other’s, then politics is clearly what this trial is about. As in other similar cases, the U.S. government has the power to insert paid spies and informants into neighborhoods who entrap unsuspecting young people who are for lots of reasons disenchanted with the government. The charges are trumped up as the young Somalis were charged with little hard evidence, but were entrapped by one of their friends.
Everything about the trial is designed to send the message that the government is in control. When observers arrive for court the primarily Somali observers are greeted by police dogs and armed members of the Homeland Security, some who seem to go out of their way to be rude, almost as if the visitors are on trial. Those wanting to view the trial are herded behind ropes in an apparent attempt to show the Somali community who is boss.
“I felt like I was treated like a criminal, like I had a warrant or something,” said Burhan Mohumed, who was tossed out of court and charged with contempt by Judge Michael Davis. “And all I was trying to do was prevent the marshals from mistreating one of the mothers. It was dehumanizing. I felt like I had committed a crime against this country.”
Davis has been a tyrant in the proceedings, and according to Homeland Security agents, Davis is the reason for the draconian prison-like atmosphere that has surrounded the trial. The courtroom is too small to accommodate all of the family and supporters that are attending the trial, so they are herded into an overflow room where they are treated to more indignities.
Under cover U.S. marshals and federal bailiffs in uniform oversee the room and give the impression that those in attendance are viewed as criminal along with those on trial. On the first day of trial a few weeks ago, folks were herded into the room. One of the supporters tried to update people coming in before the trial proceedings began, but was rudely told she couldn’t talk. Someone asked if the constitution didn’t apply to his federal courthouse.
Early in the proceedings, those who left to go to the bathroom were not allowed to return. If someone mistakenly forgot to turn off their cell phone and it was discovered, they were rudely escorted out rather than being reminded to just turn it off.
One Somali woman went into a corner to pray and was told to leave. One of the mothers cried a little too loud on one day and she was tossed out by Judge Davis, though he did allow her to return later.
Even jury selection was political as potential Black jurors were set up by the prosecution who asked if they trusted law enforcement. How many Black folks in their right mind actually trust law enforcement considering the history of Black folks and the cops in this country? And add to that the exposure, due to social media, of police mistreatment of Black folks.
So the jury pool of 15 is all White. And that is not to say that some White people can’t be impartial, but the idea of a jury of one’s peers went out the window. And make no mistake Minnesota is as prejudiced and bigoted and biased as any other state south of the Canadian border.
The prosecution opened with an ISIS propaganda film with the inference being that the defendants watched the film so they must be guilty. And they made a lot of statements that sounded really bad for the defense which are given to them by an informant.
But the defense attorneys make the point that not only was he reporting, but he began to actually encourage his friends to participate in potentially illegal ideas in order to further entrap them and earn his over $100,000 in cash and benefits the defense said Bashir received.
Clearly the prosecution’s strategy is to prove guilty by association, as they have spent most of the two weeks talking about young Somalis who did make it to Syria. And as the lawyer for Daud pointed out, a picture is worth a thousand words.
The prosecution showed picture after picture of young boys who all look Somali. It’s doubtful the jury can keep them all apart. The fact that they share likeness is part of the prosecutions strategy; if one is guilty, it’s likely they all are.
Ultimately the likelihood is high that the young people will be convicted, though conspiracy to murder doesn’t seem provable based on the evidence. At the end of the day the evidence doesn’t seem to matter that much, and their convictions will serve very political ends!
Mel Reeves welcomes reader response to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mel Reeves was the community editor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder until he passed away on January 6, 2022. He had a long and storied history working at the MSR.
Find more about Reeve’s life and legacy here: spokesman-recorder.com/category/remembering-mel-reeves.