Prosecutors said Monday that the leader of an anti-government group alleged to have bombed a Minneapolis mosque in 2017 was motivated by hatred, the Associated Press reported.
Michael Hari, 49, pleaded not guilty to multiple civil rights and hate crimes in the attack, which involved a pipe bomb being thrown through the window of Dar al-Farooq mosque during the morning of Aug. 5, 2017. Hari’s attorneys argue there is no forensic evidence showing that their client was at the mosque during the attack, according to the AP.
Prosecutors say Hari was using his “hatred to justify physical violence against his victims,” the AP reported. “This case is about hatred. It’s about prejudice,” prosecutor Allison Ethen said.
Mohamed Omar, the executive director of the mosque, said during his testimony Monday that he “thought he was having a nightmare” during the attack, according to the AP.
Among the charges are damaging property because of its religious character, forcibly obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs, conspiracy to commit felonies with fire and explosives, using a destructive device in a crime of violence, and possessing an unregistered destructive device.
The small blast broke a window and set an imam’s office on fire in the Dar Al Farooq mosque. None of the worshippers inside the building were injured. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton called the attack “an act of terrorism” in the day following the incident. (RELATED: Gov Declares Minnesota Islamic Center Explosion Was ‘An Act Of Terrorism’)
DEVELOPING: Dar Al Farooq mosque in Bloomington says someone threw a small bomb through imam’s office window at dawn. No one was hurt. pic.twitter.com/G57cXrIVkQ
— Laura Yuen (@laura_yuen) August 5, 2017
After a seven-month investigation, authorities were led to a rural community about 120 miles south of Chicago in Clarence, Illinois, where Hari and his co-defendants live, according to the AP.
Hari was allegedly the mastermind of the attack, prosecutors say, and is the leader of the White Rabbits, an anti-government group based in central Illinois. Hari allegedly chose to carry out the attack at the Minneapolis mosque because it was far enough away from his hometown. The mosque had received media attention prior to the attack when multiple young people who had worshipped there traveled to Syria to join ISIS, although no mosque leaders were ever accused of wrongdoing, the AP reported.
This morning, opening arguments began in the domestic terrorism trial of Michael Hari, leader of an Illinois militia “White Rabbits.” Hari faces federal charges, including civil rights and hate crimes, related to the pipe bombing of a Twin Cities mosque https://t.co/GiLel4YnqO
— Andy Mannix (@AndrewMannix) November 9, 2020
James Becker, Hari’s attorney, argued that the government’s attempts to prove Hari’s guilt were without a reasonable doubt, and that prosecutors had no meaningful forensic evidence tying Hari to the attack. Becker also said that his client’s co-defendants Joe Morris and Michael McWhorter had inconsistencies in their testimony.
Prosecutors said that Hari led the White Rabbits in a campaign of bombings, home invasions, and armed robberies, and the mosque was the group’s first target, the AP reported Nov. 1. Hari and his co-defendants were also charged in a failed attack on an abortion clinic in Nov. 2017, and took part in a home invasion and armed robberies of two Walmarts in Illinois.
Prior to his 2018 arrest, Hari had posted multiple anti-government monologues to YouTube under the screen name “Illinois Patriot.” Days before his arrest, he said FBI and local police were terrorizing the town where he lived, and called on “freedom-loving people everywhere to come and help us,” according to the AP.
“The detonation of that bomb shattered the Dar Al-Farooq community,” Ethen said. “That bomb forever and irrevocably changed their right to freely exercise their religion in America.”