The disappearances of young Somali men from Minneapolis, including two students from the University of Minnesota, have resulted in numerous students being questioned by the FBI, both on and off campus. The federal agents have been visiting students in high schools, colleges and the University for information about the missing Somali men. The Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling on colleges to provide more legal help for students and also says students have been approached by the FBI while walking to class and in the library. Students have also received calls from investigators. Political science, public health and global studies junior Ruqia Mohamed, who went to high school with some of the disappeared, spoke about her experience with the FBI. Earlier this year, officials came to MohamedâÄôs house in Minneapolis. She described them as âÄúrandom and at the same time spooky.âÄù Mohamed said the FBI agents were âÄútwo young girls dressed casual, unlike those I see on TV.âÄù They came into her house with pictures of missing men and local mosques in the Twin Cities. During the interview, they asked about the Abubakar As-Saddiq mosque and âÄúshowed me pictures of the mosque leaders.âÄù Mohamed was calm during an interview with the Daily until she started talking about the questions she was asked about the disappeared men. âÄúThey asked me about how [one of the two missing men from the University] used to dress and the mosques he attended,âÄù she said. Her smiling face suddenly changed as she asked if such questions are âÄúrelevant.âÄù âÄúMosques were built for prayers,âÄù Mohamed said she told the investigators, âÄúand every Muslim goes to mosques.âÄù Mohamed said she was not surprised the FBI met her since her friend was also questioned. The federal agents knocked at her door during President Barack ObamaâÄôs inauguration. They said they were curious if anybody was planning attacks in Washington. âÄúWe are Americans and we voted for Obama,âÄù Mohamed said. âÄúWhy would we bomb his inauguration?âÄù Mohamed said she asked the authorities to call her or meet her somewhere else. âÄúThey are terrorizing the whole family. My brother is only 11,âÄù she said. He asks her if she did something wrong or if she was a bad person, Mohamed added.
Difficulties finding a lawyer
Mohamed first called the Council on American-Islamic Relations to get a lawyer. CAIR couldnâÄôt help Mohamed because their lawyers were busy, she said. She then called the UniversityâÄôs Student Legal Service . Mohamed said the person who answered her call sounded like they knew all about the story and did not bother explaining what the issue was. The person immediately said theyâÄôd get back to them, Mohamed said. âÄúThey didnâÄôt get back to me until now,âÄù she said Tuesday. Luis Bartolomei, staff attorney for Student Legal Service, declined to talk about the issue because of confidentiality. âÄúI donâÄôt know why they did not help me,âÄù Mohamed said. âÄúIâÄôm a full-time student,âÄù she said about being eligible for help. âÄúMaybe IâÄôm not important to them,âÄù she added. But Bartolomei said the Student Legal Service is prepared to help all students and to empower them with as much information as possible. âÄúThe students need to understand they have the rights to not speak to the law enforcement,âÄù he added. Mohamed eventually found a public defender, she said, who at first didnâÄôt know the details of her case.
FBI hunts at the U
Reports from the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Somali students have reported finding authorities waiting on campus. The council claims the students have been approached by the FBI while walking to classes and have received calls from investigators. âÄúWe are not in a position to keep any law enforcement from the campus,âÄù said legal serviceâÄôs Bartolomei. They can teach what the studentâÄôs rights are, he added. The president of the Somali Student Association, Fathi Gelle , said a âÄúfriendâÄù from the University Police Department asked her to talk to a federal agent. âÄúIt was a friendly request,âÄù she said. University Police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner confirmed GelleâÄôs account of the meeting. She said he reminded her it was my right not to talk to them. âÄúBut since IâÄôm leader of the association, I felt I should educate them about SSA,âÄù she said. The association holds educational, cultural and religious events. Gelle said the meeting had nothing to do with if she knew the men. âÄúIt was all about the SSA and its activities,âÄù she said. But they asked if the disappeared were involved in the association. âÄúI told them they were members,âÄù she said. âÄúOf course, they are Somalis.âÄù Speaking of her perspective, Gelle said it is âÄúwrong that the FBI is approaching the students in the campus.âÄù But she said students should not talk to them if they think they might say something that will haunt them later. At first, she said many people first volunteered information to the FBI, but only some have been repeatedly questioned. The FBI did not return a call for comment on this story.