ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A Dutch woman was sentenced to three years in prison on Monday for donating several hundred dollars to a group that supported the militant group al-Shabab in Somalia.
The sentence imposed on Farhia Hassan, 38, was well below the 8-year sentence sought by prosecutors.
She was convicted earlier this year by a jury in the US District Court in Alexandria of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.
Prosecutors said she was one of 15 women who met in an online chat room and regularly pledged small amounts of money to support al-Shabab militants in Somalia and Kenya. In total, prosecutors say she donated about $300 over a three-year period, although they admitted to having difficulty tracking payments.
Hassan, originally from Somalia and a mother of six, was granted asylum in the Netherlands as a teenager and settled in the town of Terneuzen. She was originally charged in 2014 but fought extradition for seven years before being brought to the United States for trial.
Two leaders of the group have already been found guilty and sentenced to 12 and 11 years, respectively.
Hassan’s lawyers argued that she should never have been charged in the first place. They said it was excessive for the United States to accuse a Dutch woman of supporting Somali activists when she had no connection to the United States.
While al-Shabab has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, it carried no such designation in the Netherlands or the European Union during the time the group was active, from 2011 to 2014. .
Defense attorneys Jessica Carmichael and Yancey Ellis also said the minimal contributions attributed to their client only warranted a minimum sentence. They pleaded for a sentence of time served, approximately nine months.
“Ms. Hassan has been sufficiently punished,” they wrote in the sentencing papers.
Prosecutors, however, said $300 can go a long way. In court documents, they said the money could be used in Somalia to pay an al-Shabab fighter’s monthly salary or buy an AK-47 military rifle or a camel.
During Monday’s hearing, Hassan said through a Somali interpreter that she was not a supporter of al-Shabab but was donating money to help the people of Somalia.
Prosecutors, however, said there was no evidence that Hassan had truly de-radicalized, and said those participating in the online discussions regularly heard lectures supporting suicide bombings and the killing of Hassan. clerics, among other violent acts.
“There is every indication before the court that she believes as strongly in al-Shabaab’s mission as she did in 2011 when the plot began,” prosecutor Danya Atiyeh wrote.
Judge Anthony Trenga, who handed down the sentence, said he largely agreed with Hassan’s radicalization. But he said Hassan’s actions did not merit the imposition of a so-called “terrorism enhancement” that typically results in extreme increases to the recommended sentence under federal sentencing guidelines. .
Hassan has the ability to appeal his conviction and sentence.
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