Jury selection was expected to continue today in the trial of two Minnesota women accused of raising money for terrorists, but one of them might have to watch the trial on closed-circuit TV from a holding cell.
Testing the waning patience of Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis, defendant Amina Farah Ali refused to stand Monday when court was called to order or recessed during jury selection in her trial with co-defendant Hawo Mohamed Hassan in federal court in Minneapolis.
Ali, 35, of Rochester, claimed that her Muslim teachings - in particular, her interpretation of hadith, collections of sayings of the Prophet Muhammad - made her believe it was wrong to stand when a clerk cried, "All rise."
"I was told that there's a freedom of religion in this country," Ali told the judge at one point. "I don't think I should be punished or inconvenienced in any way for practicing my religion."
Davis, unmoved, said it wasn't a matter of religious freedom but rather court decorum. By the time jury selection ended for the day at 4:30 p.m., he had found her in contempt five times and vowed to keep doing it every time she refused to stand.
He said there was a limit, though. Ali had been free while she awaited trial, and Davis ordered her taken into custody and told her that if she persisted, she would watch the trial via television in a separate room.
Over the lunch hour, court technicians set up and tested the video feed.
Ali's co-defendant, Hassan, 64, also of Rochester, rose when court was called to order, as did about a dozen Somali women and a handful of men in the gallery. At one point, a female spectator did not rise when the judge entered the courtroom, but a court security officer told her to stand, and she did.
Ali's attorney, Dan Scott, gave the marshal's office the name of three imams, or prayer leaders at mosques, who will to counsel Ali about her choice.
The woman's actions prompted Thomas Kelly, Hassan's defense attorney, to renew his motion to have a trial separate from Ali. His client faces less serious charges than Ali, and he expressed fears that without Ali in the courtroom, Hassan will be the only defendant jurors see.
The judge denied the motion.
Ali and Hassan were indicted in July 2010 on charges they conspired to provide material support to a terrorist organization, al-Shabaab. The group is part of a coalition fighting in Somalia, and the U.S. government designated it a foreign terrorist group in February 2008, making it illegal to provide aid or support.
Besides conspiracy, Ali faces 12 counts of providing the material support, stemming from $8,608 she allegedly sent to members of al-Shabaab from September 2008 to July 2009.
Hassan also faces three counts of lying to the FBI.