PORTLAND — The father of Somali-American terrorism suspect Mohamed Mohamud testified Monday that his then-teenage son was suffering from an identity crisis and enduring a troubled home life when the FBI brainwashed him.
Osman Barre said he was concerned for his son’s safety when he contacted the FBI in 2009.
Barre said Mohamud told him he was planning to fly to Yemen to learn Arabic at a time when Barre was frightened by news accounts of Somali-American teenagers joining the mujahedeen in Somalia.
The stories led him to contact the FBI and say he feared his son was being brainwashed by al-Qaida recruiters.
But Barre testified Monday that he now thinks it was an elaborate FBI sting that brainwashed his son.
Prosecutors rested their case Monday. Barre was the first defense witness.
Mohamud is accused of attempting to detonate a bomb at a Portland Christmas-tree lighting ceremony in November 2010. The bomb was a fake supplied by undercover FBI agents whom Mohamud thought were al-Qaida recruiters.
During cross-examination by prosecutors, Barre was asked why he used the word “brainwashed” when speaking about his son to FBI agents. Barre interrupted Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight to say, “Can I tell you, the FBI brainwashed my son.”
“That’s not the question I asked,” Knight responded.
Authorities say the FBI was tracking Mohamud’s online contacts with Islamic radicals in early 2009. By the time Barre contacted the bureau, agents had been watching Mohamud for months, from the time he was 17.
Defense attorneys have argued that the bureau could have informed Barre and Mohamud’s mother about the contacts with radicals. FBI agents have testified that providing such information could have compromised ongoing investigations into the jihadi contacts with whom Mohamud was involved.
Barre said he did not hear anything further from FBI agents until his son was arrested.
Barre described Mohamud’s life in the strict Muslim home as troubled by the time he came to the FBI’s attention. Barre and his wife, Miriam Hassan, had split up, and the couple’s daughter — Mohamud’s younger sister — kept running away.
Mohamud was a sweet-natured kid, Barre testified, but impressionable and immature. The family believed Barre’s contact with the FBI led to Mohamud being placed on the no-fly list.
Mohamud turned from an engaged, sociable freshman at Oregon State University into a withdrawn sophomore who slept during the day, Mohamud’s friend Mohammad Mohamed testified.