Detention of three immigrants extended

Judge orders them to be held for 2 more weeks for FBI probe

`Serious, serious concerns'

Men being investigated as threat to security

September 24, 2002|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Noting "serious, serious concerns," a federal immigration court judge ordered yesterday three men who were arrested in a Northwest Baltimore apartment Sept. 10 held without bond for an additional two weeks to give the FBI time to complete an investigation of possible terrorist activity.

Judge Lisa Dornell ordered the men - two from Pakistan and one from Afghanistan - to remain in Immigration and Naturalization Service custody until an Oct. 7 bond hearing. In making her decision, the judge noted an FBI probe into the detainees posing a possible threat to national security.

Lawyers representing Choudry Jamil Khan of Pakistan, Reza Zazai, an Afghan national, and Unsir Hafeez, a Canadian citizen born in Pakistan, told Dornell their clients are innocent of terrorist cell links. The men are being held on immigration charges.

Yesterday, INS lawyers characterized as "curious" items city police found in the apartment in the 3600 block of Labyrinth Road, where several foreign nationals lived and were arrested. These items included Islamic jihad "holy war" documents and computer links to flight schools and local airports.

Muneer I. Ahmed, a lawyer for a detainee, argued that the arrests, followed by an INS request to hold the men without bond, were related to the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"The timing is important," said Ahmed, who represents Zazai. "The specter of terrorism is raised with no factual evidence."

Ahmed described his client as a 25-year-old part-owner of a fast-food franchise, New York Fried Chicken. Zazai entered the United States from Canada in September last year, he said.

The group of men arrested were linked by business ties and "all worked for the same fried chicken franchise in different parts of Baltimore," said Ahmed.

INS lawyers said the FBI wanted Khan, Zazai and Hafeez held for 30 days without bond. Dornell rejected that request as being too long to hold them on minor immigration charges.

Khoshal Wahid Nasery, who was arrested at the same address, appeared before Dornell last week and was ordered held for two weeks. Abderrahim Houti of Morocco, also arrested at the Labyrinth Road address, is in state custody. A sixth man arrested at that address is being deported to Somalia, federal officials said yesterday.

Dornell said she did not have enough information from federal authorities or the detainees to decide whether the men should be deported or held without bond for a longer period.

Regarding Zazai, Dornell told Ahmed, "I'm concerned that this [case] presents a flight risk. There is a very real concern that your client could pose a danger to the community."

INS lawyers said Hafeez and Khan were each found with more than $1,000 when arrested.

Lawyers for the detainees said federal investigators were not forthcoming with information about the case.

"If the bureau does have something they'd like to share, that would be fine," said Shahid H. Syed, representing Khan, who he said entered the United States two years ago. "But this is a case of wrong place, wrong time."

During the teleconferenced hearings, Syed told the judge that a woman and a small girl watching in the courtroom were members of Khan's family.

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