The federal ISIL trial in Minneapolis continued Monday afternoon with defense attorneys getting their shot at cross-examining the prosecution’s star witness, Abdirahman Bashir.
Bashir says he once believed ISIL’s messages and wanted to travel to Syria to “fight and kill.” However, he turned to the FBI after receiving a second subpoena in a related case, and from then on worked for them as a paid informant.
Under cross-examination, Bashir said the FBI has paid him about $100,000, mostly cash. He says the FBI did not promise him he would never be prosecuted, although he signed a document allowing him to break laws such as obtaining counterfeit passports with his friends as investigators pursued them.
Defense attorney Murad Mohammad’s apparent strategy during cross examination is to show that the three defendants would not have attempted to leave the country and join ISIL if not for the help of Bashir obtaining fake passports and plotting the trip.
Mohammad asked Bashir why, instead of working with the FBI to catch his friends, he didn’t try convincing them to change their minds. Bashir said there was no way he could change their minds, and they simply would have ostracized him if he spoke up against ISIL.
In the morning, prosecutors played several ISIL propaganda videos in court. The most gruesome showed ISIL fighters burn a caged Jordanian man alive, then pour gravel and debris on top of him. Jurors were very visibly disturbed during the playback. Prosecutors showed those specific videos, because Bashir said he and his friends watched them and they helped lead to the defendants’ radicalization.
Bashir recorded several conversations with the defendants for the FBI. During the road trip from Minnesota to California where they planned to cross the border into Mexico and fly overseas, defendant Abdirahman Doud said, “I’m going to spit on America at the border crossing. May Allah’s curse be upon you.”
In a later recording, defendant Mohamed Farah says he is ready to proceed with the plan to buy fake passports and travel overseas.
“There ain’t no life here for us. Every day we struggling with ourselves. So let this guy send the money. We prepare,” a voice identified as Farah said on the recording.
Bashir’s testimony began on an emotional note. He wiped away tears as he told of the Somali community turning their backs on him when they learned he was helping the FBI.
“It stressed me out. I felt lonely. Lot of community members would say, ‘This guy is after us.’ Some family members would tell their kids, my cousins, to stay away from me,” Bashir said.
Bashir said he had to call 911 because of an anxiety attack after the defendants were arrested in April 2015. Bashir continued working with the FBI, helping them translate and transcribe recordings.