TAMPA, Florida – Two Saudi men were held without bond Sunday after they were arrested for boarding a school bus full of children, authorities said.
Mana Saleh Almanajam, 23, and Shaker Mohsen Alsidran, 20, were charged with misdemeanor trespassing and were being held at Orient Road Jail after a judge said Saturday she wanted more background information on them.
The two men arrived in the country six months ago on student visas and are enrolled at the English Language Institute at the University of South Florida.
Investigators said they boarded the school bus Friday, sat down and began speaking in Arabic. Their behavior concerned the driver, a substitute, who alerted the school district.
The men were asked why they boarded the bus, and sheriff's spokesman J.D. Callaway said they gave different answers: They wanted to enroll in an easier English language program than the one at USF, they wanted to see a high school, and they thought it would be fun.
A friend tried to bail Almanajam and Alsidran out of jail, but Circuit Judge Monica Sierra decided to detain the pair. She scheduled a Tuesday hearing and asked that an Arabic interpreter be present.
Ahmed Bedier, director of the Central Florida Council on American-Islamic Relations, said it sounded like a cultural mix-up.
"The only reason (this happened) is because of who they are, and that's wrong," he said.