A federal judge said Tuesday that he won’t dismiss charges against seven Minnesota men accused of conspiring to travel to Syria to fight with the Islamic State group, saying the defense arguments have no merit.
U.S. District Judge Michael Davis’ order comes a day before a hearing on dozens of motions in the case. Though many requests are standard, documents filed ahead of the hearing provide glimpses into the investigation, and show that the scope of the alleged conspiracy goes beyond the men being prosecuted. Some details:
Seven Minnesota men have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and other counts. Prosecutors allege the men, friends in Minnesota’s Somali community, began meeting in spring 2014 to talk about traveling to Syria to join the Islamic State group.
Defense attorneys sought to dismiss several counts, arguing that membership or independent advocacy for a terrorist organization is protected under the First Amendment, and that the Islamic State is more like a nation than a terror group because it proclaims itself sovereign, controls territory and has an army.
But Davis said independent advocacy or passive membership is different from active conduct. He also said the Islamic State group has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization. Davis also disagreed with a defense argument that the men’s rights to freely exercise their religion are being violated.
Other requests submitted by defense attorneys will be taken up Wednesday.
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