Courthouse limits access as jury deliberates Somali terror case

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As a jury deliberates a high-profile terrorism case in Minneapolis behind closed doors, the only drama to be found is outside the courtroom.

Several dozen Somali-American women have been flocking to the federal courthouse, protesting with signs on the outside plaza and praying and gathering on the 15th floor. They’re waiting, like the rest of us, for a verdict in the case of Amina Ali and Hawo Hassan, two Rochester women who are accused of routing money to the Somali terror group al-Shabab.

Even while simply conversing, the crowds that milled outside the office of Chief Judge Michael Davis grew to become so loud that court security officers repeatedly asked them to quiet down. And at one point, two officers guarded the courthouse entrance barring people outside from re-entering the building, according to freelance reporter Mukhtar Ibrahim, who was among them. The former MPR News intern tells us he was standing in the cold for about an hour and a half before the officers finally let a crowd of about 50 inside. They were taken to a cafeteria on the ground level.

Security officers told Ibrahim they had to make sure no more than 40 people were allowed in the public area of the 15th floor, where the trial has played out for the past two weeks.

Thomas Volk, a deputy U.S. marshal, told reporters that there were some concerns about capacity, but he knew of no security threat. He deferred questions to the federal building’s managers, known as the General Service Administration, as well as the Federal Protective Services. We are waiting to hear back from the GSA. No one seems to have a working phone number for FPS, which protects federal building.

But one of the defense attorneys says the precautions are nothing out of the ordinary, given the size of the crowds.

“It became a security concern, not anything unusual, just because of the large number of people,” said Tom Kelly, an attorney representing Hawo Hassan.

Volk, the deputy marshal, also said security officers were providing “enhanced screening” of vehicles entering the underground parking ramp during the trial.

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