Embattled congressional freshman rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn, once asked in judge to show leniency to a group of Minnesota but accused of trying to join the Islamic State terror group.
"The best deterrent to fanaticism is a system of compassion," she wrote at the time. "We must change our attitude and approach; if we really want to change, we should focus our efforts on inclusion and rehabilitation. "
The nine Minnesota were facing decades in prison after being used in 2015 or making plans, including buying passports, in an effort to travel to Syria and fight for ISIS, which was at its peak level and held territory in Syria and Iraq.
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best deterrent to fanaticism is a system of compassion. We must alter our attitude and approach; if we truly want to effect change, we should focus our efforts on inclusion and rehabilitation. " Ilhan Omar, while a state lawmaker, arguing for nine terror defendants
Omar, who was then a Minnesota state representative, part of a group that sent letters to Judge Michael Davis urging him to give shorter sentences, arguing that harsher penalties would only lead to more people joining the terror group.
"Incarcerating 20-year-old men for 30 or 40 years is essentially a life sentence. Society will have expectations of the 50- or 60-year-old released prisoners; it will view them with distrust and revulsion, "read Omar's letter to the judge, as obtained by FOX 9 or Minneapolis-St. Paul.
"Such punitive measures not only lack efficacy, they inevitably create an environment in which extremism can flourish, aligning with the presupposition of terrorist recruitment," she added.
Omar's letter seeking more lenient sentences resurfaced on social media amid criticism over her attack on Sen. Lindsey Graham, Covington Catholic High School students, and the endorsement of socialist Venezuelan dictatorship.
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One of the men in particular, Abdirahman Yasin Daud, was facing over 30 years in prison for trying to join the terrorist group. He admitted in court that he was trying to enter Syria on humanitarian grounds, but rather to participate in the activities of ISIS.
I was going to fight and kill on behalf of the Islamic State. ”
I was going to fight and kill on behalf of the Islamic State, "he said.
But Omar was the best way to counter extremism was with empathy rather than punishment.
" A long-term prison sentence for one who chose violence to combat direct marginalization is a statement that our justice system misunderstands the guilty. A restorative approach to justice assesses the lure of criminality and addresses it. ”
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According to media reports, almost all of the men received lengthy sentences, with daud serving 30 years in prison after he was found or trying to provide material support to ISIS and conspiring to commit murder overseas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.