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Noted Somali Writer ‘Sangub’ Charged With Molesting Girl 10 Years Ago
MINNEAPOLIS, Jan. 04, 2006 (Associated Press) – A noted Somali writer will plead not guilty to charges that he molested a 10-year-old girl here ten years ago, his attorney said Wednesday.
Mahamud Abdillahi Isse, 70, of Minneapolis, was charged Tuesday with first-degree criminal sexual conduct. He is free on bail and will enter his plea at his next court appearance, set for Jan. 31, said his attorney, Richard Cohen.
According to the criminal complaint, filed in Hennepin County District Court, the alleged victim told police she came to the United States from Somalia in 1995 and lived with a woman who acted as her mother in Minneapolis.
She told police that Isse, whom she then called "uncle," would bring her candy and treats when he visited her guardian, and that when she was 10 years old he got into her bed, fondled her breasts, pulled her pants down and had sex with her, the complaint said. The woman moved to Washington state in 1997.
The woman, now 20, was back in Minneapolis for a visit when she ran into Isse at the Somali Mall shopping center last month. Isse gave her his phone number and said he wanted to see her again, the complaint said.
She later called Isse and recorded their conversation, the complaint said. He allegedly admitted during the call that he had sex with her back when she was a child.
When authorities interviewed Isse, the complaint said, he initially said he was joking when he admitted during the phone call to having sex with her. But he ultimately admitted he fondled her breasts and masturbated on her, the complaint alleged.
About 70 to 80 of Isse's supporters gathered outside the Hennepin County Jail on Friday when he was first picked up and again on Tuesday when Isse went back there because they thought incorrectly that the arrest warrant had been reissued, Cohen said.
"He's a popular figure in the Somali community and it's clear based on the initial community support that people are concerned," Cohen said.
The State Demographic Center estimates there are about 25,000 Somalis in the state, which is believed to be the highest concentration in the United States.
Omar Jamal, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in St. Paul, said Wednesday that his office had received over 200 calls from across the country and as far away as London since word began to spread of Isse's arrest.
Jamal compared Isse's role in Somali literature to Shakespeare's place in English. He said Isse had been a "very highly respected" poet and author from the time when Somalia gained its independence in the 1960s until it descended into civil war in 1991.
"He was a leading hero," Jamal said.
Ali Jimale Ahmed, a professor of comparative literature at Queens College and the Graduate Center at the City University of New York, told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis that Isse gained fame in Somalia during the 1960s for his vivid poetry and criticism of official corruption.
Cohen said he knew relatively few details of Isse's side of the story because their conversations had been brief and because Isse speaks very little English. But he said Isse's family and supporters have indicated to him that they suspect some sort of clan rivalries may be behind the allegations. Cohen said he hadn't had time to explore that angle yet, but that he will.
Jamal said the allegations about Isse don't add up to him.
"He was well respected," Jamal said. "He's a family man. He has almost 12 kids. He's been married. He's been a good father. So under all the circumstances we hope that this will not be true."