Minnesota janitor's terror trial underway

Oct. 4, 2012 at 3:44 PM
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MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- The trial of a part-time Minnesota janitor accused of underwriting Somali terrorists lost a juror who couldn't stomach evidence, lawyers said.

Mahmoud Said Omar, 46, is accused by federal prosecutors of giving money and support to al-Shabaab, a militant group the State Department has designated as terrorists, in Omar's native Somalia. Omar's family denies the charges, saying the man only made $800 a month as a part-time janitor at an Islamic community center and lacked the financial wherewithal to support terrorist activities, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Wednesday.

Prosecutors say Omar is one of the men FBI agents came to refer to as "the Travelers" -- one of 20 or so Muslim men from the area who disappeared from their lives in the United States and turned up in Somalia fighting alongside Islamic extremists seeking to overthrow the government and institute Sharia [Islamic] law.

Omar is not accused of actual violence, but instead giving "hundreds" of dollars to al-Shabaab to buy guns during a trip to Somalia.

Prosecutors called Abayte Ahmed, the mother of another one of "the Travelers," to testify Wednesday. The woman said her son, Jamal Aweys, abruptly left Minnesota in November 2008 and was later killed fighting in Somalia. Prosecutors flashed Ahmed a gruesome photo of her son's body as evidence, asking her to confirm it was Aweys. The mother, taken aback, began crying before steadying herself and saying it was her son.

In a recess after the exchange, a male juror had a lengthy conversation with Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis and lawyers from both sides, after which the man was led out of the courtroom and let off the case, the newspaper reported. An alternate juror took his place.

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