A jury in Minnesota has found three Somali-Americans guilty on all charges of conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State militant group.
U.S. federal prosecutors had accused Mohamed Farah, Guled Omar and Abdirahman Daud, all in their early 20s, of planning to travel to Syria to fight for IS. The full indictment can be read here.
The men were also found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder overseas, a charge that carries the possibility of life in prison. The defendants, who will be sentenced at a later date, showed little emotion when listening to the verdict.
The case captured the attention of Minnesota's Somali-American community, which has seen about a dozen of its members join Islamic State, a few years after losing about 20 young men to Somalia-based al-Shabab.
Farah, Omar and Daud are among a group of Somali-American men the FBI tracked for a period of months starting in March 2014. That month, a member of the group aroused suspicion when he applied for an expedited passport to travel to Turkey, but was unable to answer basic questions about his planned trip.
The case relied heavily on audio recordings made by a friend of the men, Abdirahman Bashir, who turned into an FBI informant. Bashir told the court that the FBI paid him over $100,000 for his cooperation.
Bashir, who had also once plotted with the defendants to join Islamic State, cried when he testified in court against his former friends.
Two other men who pled guilty to the charges, Abdullahi Yusuf and Abdirizak Warsame, also testified against their former friends.
Defense lawyers tried to counter the testimonies by arguing the FBI informant entrapped the defendants, encouraging them to engage in the incriminating recorded conversations.
The defense witnesses included one of the defendants, Guled Omar, who told the jury that the men were not serious when they were recorded talking about traveling to Syria. "We all boast," he said.
The other two co-defendants, Mohamed Farah and Abdurahman Daud, decided not to testify.
Parents worry about prejudice
In giving the case to the jury Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Michael Davis told the group of seven women and five men to reach a “just verdict,” to rely on evidence and to conduct their deliberations without prejudice.
Still, the parents of the defendants questioned if the all-white jury could give the men a fair hearing.
“These are white jurors, no Somali, no black person, no Muslims. Anyone who heard the case, on the air, will be scared when they hear ‘terrorists;’ these people are susceptible when it comes to terrorism,” Farhiya Mohamud, mother of Daud, told VOA's Somali service.
She said she had confidence in the lawyers but added, "Whatever happens is Allah’s will."
Ayan Farah, mother of Mohamed Farah, said that if the jury finds her son guilty, she will continue to press his case in court.
“Until we get justice, we will not give up. We are allowed to take appeals three times, and we will go all the way to the Supreme Court," she said. "But if it ends here, and our kids are let go and they come home, that is all we want.”