No evidence of crime found in Pa. search, attorney says

FBI questions 3 officials in Chester about anthrax

War On Terrorism

Anthrax Scare

November 17, 2001|By Scott Shane | Scott Shane,SUN STAFF

An attorney representing three Chester, Pa., city officials whose homes were raided by the FBI this week says the investigators collected computers, medicines and even teddy bears but found no evidence of any crime, let alone a bioterrorist plot.

Nonetheless, Anthony F. List said yesterday that the matter is unlikely to be resolved until after Dec. 20, when the men are scheduled to testify before a federal grand jury in Philadelphia.

FBI agents, including some in biohazard suits, spent 13 hours Tuesday searching homes in Chester occupied by Dr. Irshad Shaikh, the city's health commissioner and a part-time faculty associate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; his brother, Dr. Masood Shaikh, who runs a lead poisoning prevention program; and Asif Kazi, the city accountant. They questioned the men about anthrax and other dangerous biological agents, and List said investigators are looking for evidence of bioterrorism.

The three men, Pakistani by birth, have denied any wrongdoing, and none has been charged.

List said he accompanied the three men Thursday to an FBI office in Newtown Square, Pa. Agents asked them more questions and took their photographs, fingerprints and handwriting samples, he said. "They cooperated completely."

The lawyer said he has not been able to find out what prompted the investigation, though he has asked for access to a sealed affadavit supporting the search warrants used Tuesday. "I don't think there's a bit of evidence to support this investigation," he said.

He said Kazi was asked why he was seen pouring a cloudy liquid out in his back yard. The accountant explained that his kitchen sink was clogged and he was emptying dirty dishwater, List said.

According to a receipt left behind by the FBI, the items seized from the Shaikh residence appear to be common household goods.

The teddy bears, List said, belonged to his clients' mother. "She collects them," he said.

"Hopefully, we should be getting some of this stuff back pretty soon," the lawyer said. "The bureau has been very cooperative in agreeing to return these items. The doctors need their computers to work."

He added that if the FBI concludes its investigation without filing charges, it should make a public statement exonerating his clients.

"I wouldn't be presumptuous enough to tell the bureau when to do that, but it is something we would like to see," he said. "Whenever the bureau does an investigation, it casts a cloud of suspicion."

The FBI has declined to comment on the investigation.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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