Amina Ali, accused supporter of Somali terrorists, complains of bad treatment in jail

Amina Ali knew she was supporting al-Shabaab; that much is certain. What her trial will determine is what she knew about al-Shabaab.

These revelations came during yesterday's opening statements in the case of Ali and Hawo Hassan, two Rochester women on trial in U.S. District Court in St. Paul for giving material support to terrorism.

Ali's behavior, and her treatment by authorities, has become an interesting sidetrack to the trial -- as if it needed any added drama. On Monday, at the start of jury selection, Ali refused to stand for the judge as he entered the courtroom.

Now, thrown in jail for contempt of court, Ali says she was forcibly stripped of her clothing, including her hijab, and that jail guards have treated her roughly. Since being thrown in jail, Ali has been skipping meals, Minnesota Public Radio reports.


Judge Michael Davis has told Ali she will spend five days in jail for each day she does not recognize courtroom protocol and stand when he enters the room, according to MPR.

"If you refuse to do something," Davis told her, "you understand the consequences of that."

Referring to her being stripped and forced to take off her hijab, Davis said he understood Ali's concerns of modesty, but jailhouse safety took precedent in those decisions.

Ali and Hassan are accused of routing $8,600 to al-Shabaab, the Islamic group which has wreaked havoc in Somalia, most recently claiming responsibility for a gigantic suicide bomb that killed at least 70 in Mogadishu yesterday.

In his opening statement, defense lawyer Dan Scott says Ali didn't know that al-Shabaab was a terrorist organization until she learned it from American authorities, and that Ali and Hassan were acting in the spirit of charity.

Arguging for the prosecution, assistant U.S. attorney Jeffrey Paulsen said there are phone recordings obtained by wiretap that will prove otherwise, claiming that Ali and Hassan would "rejoice" after al-Shabaab carried out terrorist attacks.

The trial could last as long as three weeks before it is turned over to the jury, which, MPR points out, is made up of 12 women and three men, all of them white.

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