MPR reporter Mukhtar Ibrahim gets treated ... differently at the federal courthouse

Mukhtar Ibrahim used to get pulled out of line for a second metal detector screening.

Mukhtar Ibrahim used to get pulled out of line for a second metal detector screening.

A few minutes after 8 o'clock Monday morning, Mukhtar Ibrahim started filing through the security line at the federal courthouse in Minneapolis.

It was a big day for Ibrahim, and figured to be a long one: day one of a high-profile trial for three local men accused of plotting to join ISIS fighters in Syria. 

Ibrahim and a reporter for the Star Tribune approached the security screening and offered their bags for clearance by a security officer. The other reporter, who is white, passed right through and headed for the elevator. Ibrahim was stopped, and told he couldn't go in yet. He would have to wait for the time when the court opened to the public.

Ibrahim protested, pulling out a press badge showing he works for Minnesota Public Radio. Not good enough, the officer said. Go wait with the rest of the public.

Ibrahim didn't argue and instead just collected his wallet, keys, and bag, and went to wait with public spectators. The way Ibrahim figures, he shouldn't have even needed to flash the badge. He's been covering cases there for a year and a half: These guys should recognize him by now.

"They know who I am, they see me every day," Ibrahim said. "I'm not a stranger coming to cover this case from the East Coast. I've been covering this case since day one. They know I'm a reporter."

It's not the first time Ibrahim has experienced different treatment from courthouse security. For a while, he would make his way through the metal detector and, having passed it, still get pulled over to the side for a second screening administered by an officer with a handheld wand. One of his colleagues learned of this routine extra screening, and, after she interceded with court officials, that treatment stopped.

On Monday, once Ibrahim and the rest of the non-journalist observers there for the trial were let in, he simply walked across the courtroom to the area sectioned off for members of the media and sat down. But the episode continued to eat at him.

"It messed up my mood the whole day," Ibrahim said. "I was just really frustrated. I didn't expect this."

He still worked a long day, covering a jury selection process that saw about half the 50-person jury pool eliminated from consideration on Monday. (Reports MPR, one prospective juror said, "When I hear about the word terrorism, I immediately think ... guilty.") Ibrahim will be back there Tuesday morning to keep up with proceedings, and hopes he gets into the courthouse smoothly. He didn't want to guess why he'd been treated differently from other press.

"I like to stick to the facts," Ibrahim said, "so I'll let people make their own conclusions of this."