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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A federal appeals court on Wednesday affirmed the conviction of the leader of an Illinois antigovernment militia who was sentenced to 53 years in prison for masterminding the 2017 bombing of a Minnesota mosque, an attack that terrified the local Muslim community.

A three-judge panel rejected all the legal arguments raised by Emily Claire Hari. Her attorneys argued that the key federal law involved — which pertains to damaging religious property and the free exercise of religion — was invalid because it exceeded Congress' authority.

Ford County Sheriff's Office photo
Ford County Sheriff's Office photo

The court also rejected Hari's claim that prosecutors violated attorney-client privilege when authorities seized two pages of notes from Hari's cell during a shakedown.

No one was hurt in the bombing of the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center, but more than a dozen members of the mosque community gave victim impact statements about the trauma they felt. Judge Donovan Frank said at sentencing that the evidence clearly showed an intent to “scare, intimidate and terrorize individuals of Muslim faith.”

Several men were at Dar al-Farooq for early morning prayers on Aug. 5, 2017, when a pipe bomb was thrown through the window of an imam’s office. A seven-month investigation led authorities to the rural community of Clarence, Illinois, where Hari and co-defendants Michael McWhorter and Joe Morris lived.

Authorities say Hari led a small group called the White Rabbits that included McWhorter, Morris and others and that Hari came up with the plan to attack the mosque. Prosecutors said at trial that Hari was motivated by hatred for Muslims.

McWhorter and Morris each pleaded guilty to five counts and testified for the prosecution. Michael McWhorter was sentenced to just under 16 years in prison while Morris got about 14 years.

Hari's attorney said in a filing during the proceedings that gender dysphoria fueled her “inner conflict,” saying she wanted to transition from male to female but knew she would be ostracized, so she formed a “rag-tag group of freedom fighters.” But prosecutors said gender dysphoria was no excuse.

Hari is incarcerated at a federal prison in Oklahoma that houses male and female prisoners. After a review, the Biden administration last year updated Bureau of Prisons policies to restore Obama-era protections for transgender inmates, undoing a rollback ordered during the Trump administration.

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