Three San Diego men who were accused of funneling money to a Somalia-based terrorist organization will remain behind bars after a detention hearing.
The men said they considered themselves “to be part of the fight” in the African nation even though they lived in California, a federal prosecutors said.
During the afternoon detention hearing 54-year-old defendant, Issa Doreh, used his former position at work to send money to al-Shabaab Somalia terrorist group in 2007 and 2008, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Carolina Pineda Han.
Doreh told the court he explained to the other two defendants, Mohamed Mohamed Mohamud, 38, and Basaaly Saeed Moalin, 33, that the money they raised was “specifically needed for fighting,” Han said.
Han also informed the court that Doreh was recorded in a 2008 conference call asking what he could do to help the terrorist organization and used several phrases from the defendants that made it appear the group of three wanted to be part of the fight even though they lived in San Diego.
The suspected men have been charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, conspiracy to provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country and conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.
The court handed out an indictment on Oct. 22 that alleges a top military leader of the Somalian terrorist organization asked for monetary support from Moalin, who allegedly coordinated fund-raising efforts and arranged financial transfers with the two other co defendants. According to the indictment, money was sent to the organization even after the Somalia terrorist leader died.
Moalin also allegedly arranged for a house in Somalia for al-Shabaab, knowing it could be used to plan and carry out terrorist killings.
While the men have African ties, at least one is a naturalized citizen.
Doreh, is a naturalized U.S. citizen who moved to San Diego as a refugee in 1990 and was working on his doctorate in information technology at the University of the Pacific, according to his attorney, Kenneth Troiano. Doreh also has two bachelor degrees one from San Diego State University and the other from a college in Somalia.
The defense attorney explained the defendants who were heard on the wiretapped telephone conversation were merely expressing opinions about the strife in their war torn country. “At most, they provided a meager amount of support to a particular organization,” said Troiano.
The indictment was unsealed last week and it showed, prosecutors have charged that an al-Shabaab military leader requested Moalin raise a several thousand dollars for the fighting in Somalia in 2007. It was Moalin who then began fundraising and making money transfers with Mohamud and Doreh. Han explained the money was sent via wire transfers in January, February, April, July and August 2008.
Once the hearing was under way there was plenty of complaining from all the defendants.
Mohamud’s lawyer, Mahir Tewfik Sherif, made it clear to the court that all defendants were being held in isolation in the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center and felt it was over the top punishment especially since there is no evidence of any of the accused being violent. “The isolation seems to be an exceptional effort to break them down,” Sherif said.
The other defendant, Dareh, complained that the air-conditioning system was too strong and the food service was service was erratic. “This jail is torturing us,” he said.
However, the judge told the defendants that he might not have authority over their housing, but the lawyers can always file motions to have a hearing on the housing and food subjects.
While the indictment describes al-Shabaab terrorist organization as a group that uses assassinations, improvised explosives devices, rockets, mortars, automatic weapons, suicide bombings and other tactics of intimidation and violence to undermine Somalia’s government and its supporters, attorneys said the defendants have no record of violence.
This particular Somalian terrorist group recently made worldwide news when its members executed two teenage girls by firing squad in a central Somali town after they were accused of spying for the United States. The townspeople were forced to watch the shooting, according to news outlets.
The al-Shabaab terrorist group is based in southern Somalia and the U.S. government said it imposes Taliban-style religious order in villages under its control. It’s been reported that many of its fighters have trained in Afghanistan and they are linked to al-Qaeda, according to the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).
According to NCTC, most of al-Shabaab’s attacks are against aid workers and other African Union
As for the two co-defendants Mohamed Mohamud and Moalin, they waived their rights to the hearing. However, Moalin will face an additional count of providing material support to terrorists overseas.
In the end, U.S. Magistrate Judge William Gallo ordered Doreh to remain in federal custody without bail ending the hearing for the day.
All of the defendants were ordered to return to court on Dec. 3 for more motions and to set up a trial hearing.
After the court hearing was over, Mahir Sherif the lawyer for Mohamud said the conditions the defendants continue to face in jail are designed to “break them down.”