Illegal aliens rearrested on immigration charges

Moroccan man denied bail in harassment case

September 14, 2002|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

Two illegal aliens who were found Tuesday in a Northwest Baltimore apartment that contained suspicious material, including literature referring to jihad, or holy war, were rearrested on immigration charges yesterday after having been released on bond two days ago.

Meanwhile, a Moroccan man who also lived in the apartment and is facing charges of threatening a Baltimore County family was denied bail yesterday in that case.

The detentions stem from the Tuesday arrest of Abderrahim Houti, 44, an immigrant from Morocco, on charges that he harassed and threatened an Owings Mills woman and her family. During Houti's arrest, detectives found seven other men of Middle Eastern descent staying with him in a sparsely furnished apartment. Two of the men were legal residents and were released. They remain free.

As of last night, six men were in custody. Besides Houti and the two rearrested by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, a Canadian of Pakistani descent and a Pakistani, three other illegal aliens are being held. They include a Canadian of Afghan descent, an Afghan and a Somali. The Somali had violated a judge's deportation order. Their names were not available.

Yesterday's arrests came after Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. wrote a letter to INS District Director Louis Crocetti Jr. complaining that the men had been released too quickly.

"Take any and all action necessary to immediately locate and apprehend the suspects and place the appropriate charges," Ehrlich wrote.

Reached at home last night, Crocetti said that the rearrests were not a response to Ehrlich's letter.

"None of this influenced my decision," Crocetti said. "My decision was based solely on the investigative information I was provided."

He was not specific about investigative developments.

When police arrested Houti on Tuesday, they confiscated two computers, one of which was attached to a camera investigators believe was used to make fake identification cards. The computers also contained links to flight training Web sites.

Police also seized passports, documents and literature, some of which was in Arabic and contained the word jihad, law enforcement officials said.

Baltimore police Commissioner Edward T. Norris said he was "suspicious" of the men. In his letter to Crocetti, Ehrlich said that he shared the commissioner's concern.

Yesterday, Assistant State's Attorney David Chiu asked that Houti remain incarcerated, saying that he posed an extreme danger to the public and that he was a flight risk.

The woman Houti is accused of harassing is his former boss. Chiu said the woman told authorities that Houti vowed to "make her pay" for firing him.

Margaret T. Burns, spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office, said a second woman in an unrelated case contends Houti has threatened her. Burns declined to identify the woman.

Nicole Egerton, an assistant public defender who represents Houti, said the allegations against Houti are unfounded and that they were an act of revenge for an altercation between Houti and his former employer's nephew. Egerton said Houti filed charges, but the case was dismissed.

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