BDS advocate and newly elected Democratic congresswoman. (AP/Jim Mone) AP/Jim Mone
BDS advocate and newly elected Democratic congresswoman. (AP/Jim Mone)

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A US Democratic candidate who has labeled Israel an “apartheid regime” that has “hypnotized the world” is facing charges that she married her brother and committed immigration fraud.

By: AP, United with Israel Staff and JNS

A Minnesota Democratic candidate for Congress who could become the first Somali-American elected to the US House has denounced claims that she married her brother and committed immigration fraud as “disgusting lies.”

Ilhan Omar, who is running in Minnesota’s liberal 5th District, continues to be dogged by conservatives who have raised questions about her past. As the election approaches, the attacks are intensifying: Last week, Minnesota Republicans in the 5th District began a digital billboard campaign and launched a website that highlights the allegations, many of which were first raised by conservative media outlets in 2016 when Omar was running for her seat in the Minnesota Legislature.

Omar broadly denied the allegations in a statement to The Associated Press but she declined to provide documents or answer specific questions when pressed.

“We choose not to further the narrative of those who oppose us,” Omar’s statement said, adding that she believes the claims are being made by people who want to stop a black, female Muslim from sitting in Congress.

She faces Republican opponent Jennifer Zielinski in a congressional district that includes all of Minneapolis and hasn’t been represented by a Republican since 1962. The seat is being vacated by notorious anti-Israel Rep. Keith Ellison, who is running for Minnesota attorney general.

Omar is favored to take a seat in Congress. The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) stated after her victory that it “strongly condemns Ms. Omar’s past statements characterizing Israel as an ‘apartheid state’ as well as her egregious allegation that Israel is ‘hypnotizing the world’ to ignore its so-called ‘evil doings.’ ”

“Now that Ms. Omar has emerged as the Democratic candidate, JDCA will not support her candidacy—and certainly will not endorse her—because her views are not aligned with our positions and values,” said the group.

Conservative bloggers alleged in 2016 that Omar was married to two men at the same time. Polygamy is illegal in the U.S.

A timeline provided by Omar, and detailed marriage and divorce records, suggest she was not married to two men at once.

Similarly, conservative online sites have alleged that Elmi, one of Omar’s former husbands, is her brother and she married him to commit immigration fraud.

It’s unclear exactly what type of fraud is alleged, but spouses of US citizens typically have a quicker path to citizenship than siblings, though neither is guaranteed citizenship. In addition, marriage fraud is a federal crime and could result in a prison sentence of up to five years.

Sorting out these claims is difficult without access to immigration records, birth certificates or other documents that could prove parentage or family lineage.

Omar and her campaign have declined to provide the AP with a list of her siblings but she has said publicly that she is the youngest of seven children. Elmi’s birthdate on the couple’s marriage certificate would make him three years younger than her.

“Insinuations that Ahmed Nur Said Elmi is my brother are absurd and offensive,” Omar said in a 2016 statement.

Charges of Perjury

There are also allegations that Omar committed perjury when she said in her 2017 divorce filing that she had no contact with Elmi since June of 2011.

In her divorce papers, Omar said in 2017 that she hadn’t had contact with Elmi since June 2011, that she believed he was in London and that she didn’t know how to reach him. But conservative bloggers have said a man also named Ahmed Elmi was photographed at an event with Omar in London years after she claimed there was no contact.

That man told Alpha News in 2016 that he was the man in group pictures with Omar, but he denied knowing her and said he had never been married. He has not responded to inquiries from AP by phone, email or over social media.

While this could be a case of mistaken identity, there are several coincidences that suggest the possibility of a connection between Omar and the man who claimed he doesn’t know her.

Among them, his LinkedIn account says he went to North Dakota State University; Elmi and Omar also went to North Dakota State University, according to university records. His LinkedIn account lists art as a major, which the university says Elmi also studied.

According to North Dakota State University records, Elmi attended the school from August 2010 through May of 2012. The man who spoke with Alpha News gave the website a different birthdate and year of attendance. The university had no record of anyone with the name and birthdate given to Alpha News, and it had no record of anyone with his name attending school in 2005, the year he provided to Alpha News.

In addition, his Instagram account contains pictures of Minneapolis scenes that are dated in 2012; Elmi, Omar’s ex-husband, lived in Minneapolis in 2012, according to court records that show he was evicted from an apartment that year.

Misuse of Campaign Funds

More recently, a Republican state representative has accused Omar of misuse of campaign funds, including spending $3,000 on personal travel.

While Omar said these claims are politically motivated, the Republican who made the complaints said at least one of them is being investigated.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski is questioning Omar’s campaign purchase of a plane ticket to the Baltic country of Estonia and another ticket to Boston to speak at a political rally. Under state law, trips must be reasonably related to serving in office.

“It should be concerning to his constituents that he is using taxpayer dollars to harass a Muslim candidate,” Omar’s campaign said in a statement to AP.

Drazkowski had earlier suggested that Omar used $2,250 in campaign funds to pay a lawyer for her divorce proceedings. Omar has said those payments to her attorney were campaign-related fees.

Drazkowski also alleged that Omar violated state House rules when she accepted speaking fees from public colleges. Omar has since returned the money.

The Star Tribune said in an editorial published Friday that Omar needs to be more transparent about her use of campaign funds before the Nov. 6 election.

“Omar owes a fuller explanation to Fifth District voters — and soon,” the newspaper said.