ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A Dutch woman charged seven years ago with raising money for the Somali terrorist group al-Shabab has been extradited to the U.S. to face trial.
Farhia Hassan, 38, made an initial appearance Friday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria after being brought to the U.S. on Thursday on charges of conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization. She was ordered held pending her next hearing.
Prosecutors say Hassan helped raise money by telling donors it would fund schools and orphans when it was actually going to terrorists. The indictment alleges that al-Shabab cells in Nairobi, Kenya, and Hargeisa, Somalia received payments over a period from 2011 through 2014.
She faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
While Hassan was in the Netherlands fighting extradition over the last seven years, her lawyers in the U.S. were working to get the charges against her tossed out. The defense lawyers argued that the U.S. lacked jurisdiction to charge a Dutch woman with giving money to a Somali terrorist group. And they said the long delays in bringing her to trial amounted to a denial of her speedy trial rights.
But Judge Anthony Trenga ruled last year that the case could move forward. He said that several of Hassan's co-conspirators were based in the U.S., and that the U.S. has a legitimate interest in prosecuting supporters of a group designated as a terrorist organization.
He also ruled that Hassan's own efforts to fight extradition were responsible for the trial delays. Hassan's lawyer Jessica Carmichael declined comment after Friday's hearing.
Two of Hassan's co-defendants, Muna Osman Jama of Reston, Virginia, and Hinda Osman Dhirane of Kent, Washington, were convicted back in 2016 and received prison sentences of 12 and 11 years, respectively.
At trial, defense lawyers argued that the amounts contributed by the women were negligible, amounting to a few thousand dollars in total from a group of about 15 women. They also said the money was intended to care for injured al-Shabab soldiers and that providing funds for medicine in an armed conflict cannot be considered a criminal act under international treaties.
The defense also raised First Amendment issues, saying their advocacy for al-Shabab should not be fodder for a criminal conviction.