NEW YORK – Two U.S. citizens accused of being Al Qaeda (search) loyalists were each ordered held without bail Tuesday as they appeared in federal courtrooms in New York and Florida.
Tarik Shah (search), 42, of New York, waved and smiled at supporters and appeared relaxed at his preliminary hearing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan before Magistrate Judge Theodore Katz.
In Fort Pierce, Fla., Dr. Rafiq Abdus Sabir (search), 50, told U.S. District Judge James Hopkins that he had yet to hire an attorney, and the judge set the next hearing in his case for June 6.
Neither defendant had entered a plea on the single charge of conspiring to provide material support to Al Qaeda.
Prosecutors say the two men swore a formal oath of loyalty to Al Qaeda as they conspired to use their skills in martial arts and medicine to aid international terrorism.
Outside court, spokesman Dan McBride of the Islamic Center of Boca Raton defended Sabir as a man who traveled between the United States and Saudi Arabia to earn enough money to support his wife and their two sons.
"He's a broke doctor," McBride said. "He has no money. He works over there, then comes back and lives over here."
The men were arrested Friday following a sting operation that the government said started in 2003. If convicted, each could face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Prosecutors said Sabir, an Ivy League-educated doctor, agreed to treat jihadists, or holy warriors, in Saudi Arabia. Shah, a jazz musician and a self-described martial arts expert, allegedly agreed to train them in hand-to-hand combat.
Shah's mother, Marlene Jenkins of Albany, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel the charge against her son is ridiculous and insisted he's not a terrorist. Sabir's former wife, Ingrid Doyle of New York, told the newspaper he was a good father and husband, and a hardworking man.
The complaint unsealed Monday described Shah's zeal to train "brothers" for urban warfare. It alleged both men pledged their allegiance to Al Qaeda during a May 20 meeting in the Bronx.
Shah went with an informant to a Long Island warehouse to see if it would be adequate as a training site, unaware FBI agents were videotaping the visit, the papers said.
He also discussed a desire to open a machine shop to make weapons, the complaint said.
"Shah indicated that his `greatest cover has been' his career as a `professional' jazz musician," FBI agent Brian Murphy wrote in the complaint.
At one point, the informant told Shah he was going to take him to Plattsburgh, N.Y., to introduce him to a recruiter from the Middle East, who actually was an undercover FBI agent, the complaint said.
Murphy said Shah was eager to introduce Sabir — a "very, very, very close friend" he had known for more than 20 years — to the recruiter.
Shah also discussed a desire to start a martial arts school only for Muslims and said he hoped to be trained in chemicals, explosives, firearms, AK-47 assault rifles and hand grenades, the complaint said.