NEW YORK – Two American citizens facing a terrorism charge — one a doctor and the other a self-described martial arts expert — became enthusiastic followers of Al Qaeda (search) and Usama bin Laden before their arrests, according to court papers released Monday.
Dr. Rafiq Abdus Sabir (search), 50, of Boca Raton, Fla., and Tarik Shah (search), 42, of New York, who also claimed to be a jazz musician, were arrested Friday on a charge they conspired to provide material support to Al Qaeda, an FBI agent said.
If convicted, each could face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.
Sabir and Shah were to make their first appearances Tuesday in federal courthouses in Miami and Manhattan. The names of their lawyers were not available Monday.
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.
An 18-page complaint unsealed Monday repeatedly described Shah's zest 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 windowless Long Island warehouse to see if the location would be adequate as a training site, unaware FBI agents were secretly videotaping the visit, the papers said.
He discussed a desire to open a machine shop to make weapons so fellow enthusiasts would not have to rely on anyone else to get guns, the complaint said.
"Shah indicated that his 'greatest cover has been' his career as a 'professional' jazz musician," wrote Brian Murphy, the FBI agent who prepared the complaint.
At one point, the informant told Shah he was going to take him to Plattsburgh, N.Y., to introduce him to an undercover FBI agent posing as a recruiter from the Middle East.
Murphy said Shah was eager to introduce Sabir to the recruiter, who was first mentioned in January 2004.
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. The defendant allegedly discussed martyrdom with the informant, saying he and Sabir had been persecuted for many years.
Both men were kicked out of a Bronx mosque where Sabir was an assistant imam after Sabir took Shah and another person to the mosque to teach urban warfare, the papers said.
On April 1, 2004, Shah was meeting with the informant when he exchanged smiles with a girl standing nearby, the complaint said. Shah allegedly turned to the informant and said: "I could be joking and smiling and then cutting their throats in the next second."