ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A Dutch woman has been convicted of raising money for the Somali terrorist group al-Shabab, according to a federal prosecutor.
Farhia Hassan, 38, was convicted Tuesday of conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, Jessica Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a news release.
Court records and evidence showed Hassan was involved for more than three years with a group of women from more than a dozen countries who ran a fundraising ring to provide financial support to al-Shabab.
The women funneled cash payments directly to members of the terrorist group, coordinating the payments using online chatrooms, and it was used to fund safehouses and to purchase trucks and weaponry in support of al-Shabab, the news release said.
Hassan was involved in fundraising in the Netherlands, falsely telling donors that money was raised to help charitable causes, the news release said.
Hassan faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison when she is sentenced on July 22.
Hassan was extradited last year from the Netherlands to the U.S. to face trial after a seven-year fight. Her lawyers argued that the U.S. lacked jurisdiction to charge a Dutch woman with giving money to a Somali terrorist group, but Judge Anthony Trenga ruled that the U.S. has a legitimate interest in prosecuting supporters of a designated terrorist organization.
Two U.S.-based members of the fundraising ring were convicted in 2016 and sentenced to more than a decade in prison.
Their defense argued that the amounts contributed by the women were negligible — a few thousand dollars in total — and that they intended the money to care for injured al-Shabab soldiers. They said providing funds for medicine in an armed conflict cannot be considered criminal under international treaties, and convicting someone for advocating for a cause violates the First Amendment.
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