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Sixth suspect arrested in St. Louis terror financing case

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ST. LOUIS • The sixth and final suspect accused in federal court here of helping support the Islamic State and other terrorism groups has been arrested in Germany, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

Jasminka Ramic, 42, and five others were indicted Feb. 5 and accused of conspiring to provide money and military equipment to fighters in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere who belonged to the Islamic State group, al-Qaida in Iraq and the al-Nusrah Front. Ramic was apprehended Tuesday.

One of those fighters was a former St. Louis-area resident, Abdullah Ramo Pazara, who was killed in Syria.

All but Ramic were arrested Friday, including Ramiz “Siki” Hodzic, 40, and Sedina Hodzic, 35, a married couple from St. Louis County.

The Hodzics pleaded not guilty to the charges in U.S. District Court here Wednesday.

A hearing to discuss a prosecution bid to hold them in jail until trial was postponed until next week at the request of defense lawyers, who said they needed more time to respond.

Ramiz Hodzic’s attorneys declined to comment on the case.

Sedina Hodzic’s attorney, Paul D’Agrosa, said outside the courthouse that he expected Ramiz Hodzic will be jailed but hoped his client could be released to care for the couple’s three children, one of them just 20 months old. The youngsters are with a family friend, as they have no relatives in the area, he said.

“I think as a mom, she needs to be out,” D’Agrosa said.

Ramiz Hodzic told court staff he was a truck driver. The company owner did not respond to messages seeking comment. Sedina Hodzic last worked in March 2010.

On Tuesday, Mediha Medy Salkicevic, 34, of Schiller Park, Ill., was ordered to be transferred in custody to Missouri and detained until trial.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cole, of the Northern District of Illinois, wrote in an order that “by clear and convincing evidence, that there is no ... set of conditions that will reasonably assure the safety of the community, which can, of course, include foreign communities.”

“The ... offenses with which the defendant is charged could scarcely be more serious, and the defendant wisely does not contend otherwise,” Cole wrote.

Salkicevic, a naturalized citizen, is married with four children and is an employee of an air cargo facilitating company in the Chicago area, Cole wrote. She has built or is about to finish a “large” house in Bosnia, where her parents live.

As she faces charges with a potential penalty of 15 years in prison, she “has every motive to flee and far less to stay,” the judge noted.

Salkicevic is quoted in the indictment as saying she hoped that two sniper rifle scopes reached “them” and “that they be put to good use.”

Cole’s order rejected what must have been a claim that her words could have an innocent explanation. “Only literary perversity or jaundiced partisanship could find an innocent meaning in the defendant’s words,” the judge wrote.

Asked by a reporter for comment, Salkicevic’s attorney, Andrea E. Gambino, responded with a written reminder that “the presumption of innocence is the foundation of our justice system — not mere words.” She added, “The appropriate place to review and discuss evidence is in the courtroom, at trial, and not before trial in the media.”

Armin Harcevic, 37, of St. Louis County, pleaded not guilty Monday in federal court in San Jose, Calif. His detention hearing is set for Feb. 13. His public defender declined to comment Wednesday.

Nihad Rosic, 26, of Utica, N.Y., also was arrested, although court documents do not indicate where he is held. He was accused of trying to board a Norwegian Airlines flight in July, with plans to travel to Syria to fight.

All six face charges of conspiring to provide material support and resources to terrorists, and with providing material support to terrorists. Ramiz Hodzic and Rosic were charged in addition with conspiring to kill and maim persons in a foreign country.

Also on Wednesday, federal prosecutors in Missouri revealed that electronic surveillance authorized through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act would be used in the case.

D’Agrosa said that could mean evidence would have to be declassified for release to defense lawyers, and that some hearings might be closed to the public. Although he has not yet seen the evidence, D’Agrosa guessed it could include emails, Facebook messages and phone calls.

In court and court filings, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Drake said that a years-long investigation had produced “voluminous” evidence that included hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, records obtained by grand jury subpoenas issued to financial institutions and electronic service providers, other electronic surveillance and defendants’ statements, items seized from them and the products of search warrants.

  • Much of the evidence is in Bosnian, he said, and there is so much that it will be released to defense attorneys in batches.
  • Defense lawyer D’Agrosa, outside the courthouse, cautioned the public not to “make assumptions,” saying, “There’s more than meets the eye in this case.” He elaborated by saying that with a husband and wife, “There’s always a dynamic there that ought to be considered.”

On Monday, the Islamic Community of North American Bosniaks released a statement that read, in part, “Bosniaks have lived in North America for over a hundred years as peaceful and law-abiding citizens.”

“We are very shocked that a few individuals of Bosnian descent who live in the United States have recently been arrested and charged because of their support of terrorist activities. On behalf of Bosniaks in North America, we strongly condemn any activity that promotes extremism and terrorism of any kind.”

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