BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – A federal judge ordered a former Navy sailor held without bail Friday on charges that he supported terrorism by disclosing secret information about the location of Navy ships and the best ways to attack them.
Hassan Abujihaad, 31, of Phoenix, appeared briefly in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport but did not enter a plea or make a statement.
"Obviously, this is a very serious matter," U.S. Magistrate Holly Fitzsimmons told Abujihaad, who stood quietly in an orange jumpsuit.
His attorney, Dan LaBelle, declined comment after the hearing but told Fitzsimmons that his client has a job and two small children and will ask to be released on bond at some point. His next hearing is set for March 30.
Abujihaad is accused in a case that began in Connecticut and followed a suspected terrorist network across the country and into Europe and the Middle East.
Investigators say the American-Muslim convert, also known as Paul R. Hall, provided secrets in the form of classified documents to a suspected terrorism financier.
He was arrested in Phoenix, where he was apparently working as a delivery man, on a criminal complaint from Connecticut, home to the Internet service provider where the investigation started. A grand jury in Bridgeport indicted Abujihaad on charges of providing material support to terrorists with intent to kill U.S. citizens and disclosing classified information relating to the national defense.
Friends said they knew the former sailor was unhappy with American foreign policy, but they were surprised by his arrest.
"He was very opinionated," said Miguel Colon, a friend who said FBI agents questioned him extensively about Abujihaad this week. "He would talk about things in regard to the way the Iraq war was going. It was something he disagreed with."
Colon, 24, said he met Abujihaad at a mosque in Phoenix. He said he rarely saw his friend angry and he's having a hard time believing the man whose children played with his children secretly supported terrorists.
"He was pretty much a homebody," he said.
Abujihaad did admire the rebels in Chechnya, saying they were formidable fighters, Colon said.
He said Abujihaad believes his case was blown out of proportion and that he only bought DVDs. Federal authorities say they recovered e-mails about videos Abujihaad ordered that promoted violent jihad.
Abujihaad is charged in the same case as Babar Ahmad, a British computer specialist arrested in 2004 and accused of running Web sites to raise money for terrorism.
Abujihaad, a former enlisted man, exchanged e-mails with Ahmad while on active duty on the USS Benfold, a guided-missile destroyer, in 2000 and 2001, according to an FBI affidavit. In those e-mails, Abujihaad discussed naval briefings and praised Usama bin Laden and those who attacked the USS Cole in 2000, according to the affidavit.
Ahmad is to be extradited to the U.S. Abujihaad, who received an honorable discharge from the Navy in 2002, according to the affidavit, could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.