ALBANY, N.Y. – Two Muslim men caught up in an anti-terrorism sting operation pleaded innocent Friday as details emerged about 10 new charges against them.
Yassin Aref (search) and Mohammed Hossain (search) were accused Thursday of attempting to provide support to Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistan-based group listed by the federal government as a terrorist organization. Aref, who leads a mosque, also was charged with lying to federal officials.
The pair were initially charged in August 2004 with conspiring to launder money and promoting terrorism. They now face a total of 30 charges.
Entered as new evidence against Aref were entries in his personal journals that prosecutors say link him to Mullah Krekar, the founder of Ansar al-Islam, a terrorist group that U.S. authorities contend has ties to Al Qaeda (search) and has been responsible for attacks on American forces in the Middle East.
One of the entries stated it was time to "take the war to America and Israel," Assistant U.S. Attorney William Pericak said.
A memorandum filed by prosecutors also includes reference to a poem prosecutors say was written by Aref in December 1999 that read: "Raise the Jihad sword ... Raise the Koran with blood ... So we can bring back the freedom for ourselves and the entire people of this Earth."
The written materials "compel the conclusion that Mr. Aref espouses and has adopted the goals of terrorist organizations and has had an ongoing relationship with terrorist organizations," U.S. Magistrate Judge David Homer said. "It seems the government's case is extremely enhanced."
He revoked Aref's bail but allowed Hossain to remain free.
Aref's lawyer, Terence Kindlon, had argued his client's writings were merely notes he made describing what he heard visitors to his home in Syria talking about. He said Aref had only briefly met Mullah Krekar when Aref worked as a "glorified janitor" at offices of the Islamic Movement in Kurdistan, an organization alleged to be an armed movement seeking an Islamic government in Iraq.
Aref, 35, and Hossain, 50, were arrested after being snared in the FBI sting operation built around a fictitious assassination plot against a Pakistani diplomat. An FBI informant told the suspects he was an arms dealer and asked Hossain to launder money from the sale of a shoulder-fired missile that would be used to kill the diplomat in New York City, according to the federal complaint.
In the indictment handed up Thursday, Aref was also charged with making false statements to immigration officials and the FBI when he denied being a member of the Islamic Movement in Kurdistan.
If convicted of all charges, Aref faces 470 years in prison and $7.25 million in fines, while Hossain faces 450 years in prison and $6.75 million in fines, prosecutors said.