Former Gitmo Translator Indicted

A former Guantanamo Bay (search) translator arrested after he was found with classified documents at Logan International Airport was charged Wednesday with gathering defense information and making false statements.

The grand jury's indictment alleges that Ahmed Fathy Mehalba (search), who has been in federal custody since his arrest, lied to investigators when he told them he was not carrying any government documents from Guantanamo Bay. Customs agents found 132 compact discs in his luggage, including one that contained hundreds of classified documents labeled "SECRET."

He also allegedly lied about not understanding the meaning of the term "secret" with regards to the classified documents and about not receiving a security briefing.

"As today's indictment makes clear, the Department of Justice will prosecute those who jeopardize the nation's security by mishandling classified, sensitive information important to the war on terrorism," Attorney General John Ashcroft said.

Mehalba, 31, was arrested Sept. 29 as he arrived in Boston after visiting his native Egypt.

If convicted, Mehalba faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the defense information charge, and up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the two false statements charges.

A phone call to the Boston office of his attorney, Michael Andrews, was not answered.

His arrest was the third involving someone who worked closely with Guantanamo's prison population, which includes several people arrested during the war on terrorism. Two military personnel are also in custody.

Another Arabic translator, Air Force Senior Airman Ahmad I. al-Halabi (search), is charged with espionage and aiding the enemy. A Muslim chaplain, Army Capt. Yousef Yee (search), has been charged with disobeying orders for improperly handling classified information.