A Somali woman pleaded guilty Thursday to charges she lied in immigration proceedings and to FBI agents looking into the suspected terrorism ties of her husband.
Deka Abdalla Sheikh and Abdullah Omar Fidse were detained at the Hidalgo port of entry in January 2008. Neither had identification, but both claimed persecution in their home country and sought asylum. Sheikh eventually got it, was granted temporary permanent residence and has been living in Madison, Wis.
Fidse was held as federal authorities investigated him, and he remains jailed after the couple were indicted in May 2011 on charges of lying to immigration authorities and the FBI.
At a hearing Thursday before Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery, Sheikh admitted Fidse “coached” her on how to respond to immigration officials’ questions during his immigration court hearings.
The two rehearsed their responses, which they knew to be false, via phone. They even created hand signals to secretly communicate with each other during court testimony.
Following their rehearsed lines, the defendants each told authorities Fidse fled Mogadishu, Somalia in 2008 after his father was killed by Islamist militants and that they had first met in Ethiopia.
But prosecutors say Fidse’s father was not killed by al-Qaida or any of its Somali franchises and that Fidse and Sheikh, who had known each other since childhood, eventually married and lived together for three years.
Fidse was living in Nairobi, Kenya, not Somalia, at the time he claimed his father was killed, officials said. And, Fidse’s father died of natural causes, prosecutors said.
At a hearing last year, FBI special agent Mark Wagoner previously testified Fidse was secretly recorded saying he had been a cook for Osama bin Laden, and that he was “in tears” after a U.S. airstrike in Somalia in 2008 killed Aden Ayro, head of the extreme Islamic group al-Shabaab.
Fidse “spoke about jihad,” Wagoner said. “He also recited the Koran … phrases like ‘Gather your horses and weapons and terrorize the infidels.’”
Prosecutors also allege an undercover source taped Fidse in 2009 claiming he bought a $100,000 armed battle vehicle that later was destroyed during fighting. The indictment filed against them does not specify who was involved in the fighting using the vehicle or where it took place.
Fidse claimed that the voice in the recording was manipulated by the FBI to sound like his own.
When agents confronted Fidse with the tape, Wagoner said, he denied it was his voice on the recording, but later relented.
“I like to embellish things,” Wagoner quoted Fidse as saying. “I want to be a politician.”
Biery scheduled Fidse’s trial in February.