Terror conspiracy defendant Mohamed Farah was given 30 years in prison Wednesday morning — by far the stiffest sentence so far — as Minnesota’s ISIL recruiting case entered its final day of sentencing.
Farah, 22, was one of three defendants who refused to plead guilty or cooperate with prosecutors, instead taking his case to a jury trial last spring. Farah and two co-defendants were convicted of conspiracy to support the terrorist group ISIL and conspiracy to commit murder abroad. Federal prosecutors had recommended 30 years in prison.
Addressing Senior U.S. Judge Michael Davis Wednesday morning, Farah said he now disavows terrorist groups and realizes that extremist organizations such as ISIL “don’t stand for peace.”
“We ended up on a road nobody expected,” Farah said. “Your honor, that’s the allure and the dangers of terrorism.”
Farah also looked back at his parents and siblings in the courtroom. “For them to see me today in an orange jumpsuit is not my idea for what a role model should be,” he said.
Farah, the eldest of six siblings in a Somali-American family in Minneapolis, was stopped at JFK Airport in 2014 while trying to leave for Syria and was later caught on tape saying he would kill any FBI agents who got in his way.
Farah’s attorney, Murad Mohammed, asked Davis to sentence his client to 15 years.
“These are young kids, young men, that are battling each other, one-upping each other with their level of religiosity,” he said. “They saw religion as a refuge. In essence they radicalized each other.”
Mohammed also said that, in retrospect, his client should have pleaded guilty with other co-defendants last spring to a charge of conspiracy to support ISIL before more serious charges were added to his indictment.
The prosecution, for its part, pointed out that in 2014 and 2015 Farah showed every sign of being a determined ISIL recruit — trying twice to leave the United States for Syria — and that he lied repeatedly to investigators after his arrest, while declining opportunities to cooperate with the government.
Davis, too, returned to the gravity of the accusations leveled against Farah. As he had done Monday and Tuesday, he had prosecutors show one of the grisly ISIL recruiting videos the young defendants had watched. The 12-minute clip, one of the most notorious ISIL propaganda pieces, concludes with the burning alive of a captured Jordanian fighter pilot in early 2015.
“Understand they were watching these for hours at a time, day after day after day,” Davis said.
This story will be updated as two additional sentencing hearings take place today.