Minnesota is not as homogenous as it was just a few decades ago. Events around the world — the Vietnam War, unrest in Somalia and in other parts of Africa — have all had the effect of spurring significant migration to our region.

With the influx of new faces and cultures has come a level of international focus that is nearly unprecedented in the state’s history. That reality has been hammered home in recent years in light of several cases.

Readers will recall that there has been a great deal of concern expressed about the number of young Somali men from Minneapolis who have opted to return to their homeland, ostensibly to fight for Muslim extremist forces there.

This past week, the has been the case of the U.S. Air Force veteran from Brooklyn Park who suspected of having been part of an attempt to overthrow the president of Gambia, an African country with which the U.S. is friendly.

Because we are at peace with Gambia, federal authorities have charged him with violating the U.S. Neutrality Act. They accuse the 46-year-old man of conspiracy. He is one of two Americans charged.

According to officials, the man is accused of shipping guns to Gambia and of going there himself last month for the anticipated coup. Prosecutors say the effort failed and the man was on his way back to Minnesota last month when he was arrested in Washington, D.C.

Today, he appeared in federal court in Minneapolis seeking to be released pending the outcome of his case. The Associated Press reported that his attorney cited his military service, his good reputation in the community. But the court rejected his request.

These are obviously serious charges and its international context likely makes matters worse. Anyone facing a federal charge needs to know that for the sake of their rights they should be working with an attorney with the greatest level of demonstrated experience.

Source: Star Tribune, “Accused Gambia coup plotter is denied release from jail,” David Chanen, Jan. 8, 2015