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Judge reinstates contempt charges against Somali woman; but drops jail time for not standing in court.


A federal judge in Minneapolis reinstated contempt charges Tuesday against a Somali woman who had refused to stand in respect to the court during her trial last year on charges related to terrorism. Then he dropped the jail time he’d imposed.
Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis cited Amina Farah Ali for contempt 20 times when she refused to stand along with others in the court as the judge entered and left the room. He ordered her to serve 100 days in jail — five days for each time she remained seated after court staff members gave the “all-rise” call.
After the first contempt citation, Ali protested that standing before a judge would violate her interpretation of her Islamic faith. She relented after two days.
In June, the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case and directed Davis to reconsider whether there was a less restrictive method than contempt to maintain order. The ruling affected 19 of the contempt charges.
The October trial of Ali and Hawo Mohamed Hassan on charges of raising money for charity and sending some of it to help terrorists in their native Somalia received widespread news coverage and drew intense scrutiny from the Somali community in Minnesota and abroad. Both women were convicted by a jury of providing material support to Al-Shabab, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.
Dan Scott, Ali’s attorney, said his client refused to stand for two days of the trial, yet the proceedings otherwise went smoothly. Hence, he argued, the standing requirement is not necessary to preserve order.
Scott noted that lawyers, marshals and court personnel must follow stricter rules than the public.
“I have to appear in a suit, sports coat and tie, or I can be held in contempt of court,” he said. “My clients are often here in blaze orange and flip-flops, and they are not held in contempt of court.”
Davis said he believes the appellate court was giving him an opportunity to “supplement the record” about why he found a compelling government interest in having Ali stand upon his entry and exit.  MORE
Amina Farah Ali, left, was found guilty of supporting a known foreign terrorist group.

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