Published September 20, 2002
BUFFALO, N.Y. – One of the six men suspected of being part of a New York-based terrorist cell told investigators he tried to leave an Al Qaeda camp "after realizing the crazy, radical mentality'' of people there.
Prosecutors returned to federal court Friday to try to keep the men jailed without bail. Prosecutors have argued the men pose a flight risk, and that one suspect carried thousands of dollars — spending some at a casino — despite claiming he had only a small net worth.
The judge recently said that that the decision for bail on the six suspects will be scheduled for October 3rd.
In requesting bail Thursday, defense attorneys described the six, all of whom are U.S. citizens of Yemeni descent, and Muslims, as victims of misinformation who pose no threat and won't flee.
Defense lawyer James Harrington admitted Sahim Alwan went to the Al Qaeda training camp near Kandahar, but said he wanted to go home and could not get out until a few days after Usama bin Laden spoke at the camp.
``I was scared and missed my family. I did not agree with the mentality of some of the people at the camp,'' Alwan, 29, told FBI investigators. ``After realizing the crazy, radical mentality of people at the camp, I decided to leave.''
Authorities said they had no evidence of any pending attacks planned by the alleged terror cell.
Five of the men were arrested last week after a series of raids in Lackawanna, five miles south of Buffalo. The sixth was detained in Bahrain and flown back.
Lawyer Patrick Brown said the family of 24-year-old Shafal Mosed got pledges for real estate valued at about $600,000 for bail if needed.
``These are people of rather modest means, I think, who are willing to risk it all,'' Brown said.
The suspects say they traveled to Pakistan in 2001 for religious training. But according to the criminal complaint, two of the men — Alwan and Mukhtar al-Bakri, 22 — told the FBI they traveled on to an Al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, where they received training in firearms and where Usama bin Laden spoke.
Attorneys for Faysal Galab, 26, Yasein Taher, 24, and Mosed disputed the men ever went to Afghanistan, and questioned the credibility of Alwan and al-Bakri.
At arraignments, Schroeder entered innocent pleas for all six to a charge of supporting a terrorist organization. They could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Defense attorneys have moved for dismissal.
William Clauss, who represents Yahya Goba, 25, said prosecutors had no evidence suggesting Goba took orders from Al Qaeda or linking him to an e-mail prosecutors said was sent from one suspected cell member to another.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Hochul said the July 18 e-mail sent by al-Bakri to an uncharged co-conspirator uses language similar to that used by bin Laden and discusses a ``big meal'' — meaning an attack using explosives.
Hochul said other evidence found at al-Bakri's home in Lackawanna included a rifle, a telescopic sight, and a cassette tape that ``asks Allah to give Jews and their enablers (U.S.) a black day.''
Two other suspected cell members, identified as Jaber Elbaneh and Kamal Derwish, are believed to be in Yemen. Authorities say they believe Derwish is the ringleader.