Brother of Would-Be Palestinian Homicide Bomber Gets $250 Fine, Probation for Lying to FBI

A Palestinian immigrant avoided prison time Tuesday for failing to tell the FBI about his brother's written vow to become a homicide bomber in Israel.

Mohammad Subeh, a 43-year-old grocery store owner who pleaded guilty to a felony count of concealing a material fact from the FBI, was placed on probation for a year and fined $250.

"The atmosphere is bad," Subeh said in an interview after drawing a minimum sentence. "This is fear of a terrorist situation. If it wasn't for Sept. 11, there was no case actually."

Subeh admitted deceiving federal agents at Rochester's airport in 2003 when he denied seeing a farewell letter in which his brother indicated he was traveling home to the West Bank to join the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militant group that has claimed credit for homicide bombings in Israel.

Indicted on three counts of making false statements to the FBI, Subeh had faced up to five years in prison. But under a plea deal in January, the naturalized citizen and father of five faced a maximum sentence of six months instead.

"I have given much thought (to) why I withheld the contents of the letter and have concluded that I was emotionally torn and did not want to get my brother into trouble," Subeh said in a letter to U.S. District Judge Charles Siragusa.

"By pleading guilty, I believe I have demonstrated my acceptance of responsibility," he wrote. "My family and I and my friends have suffered a great deal of humiliation in this community."

His 21-year-old brother, Ismail Dorgham, lived in Rochester for a year before abruptly quitting his job at the store and flying back to the Middle East. Prosecutors say Dorgham carried a letter in his wallet — and left a copy for Subeh — saying he wanted to avenge the shooting death of their brother by Israeli police in May 2002 and become a homicide bomber.

When Subeh came upon the letter, he flushed it down a toilet and rushed to the airport in a vain attempt to stop Dorgham from leaving. His efforts to have his brother taken off the flight led to Subeh being questioned. Asked if Dorgham was going to Israel to be a homicide bomber, Subeh said he couldn't answer "one way or the other but that Dorgham's mental state worried him," FBI Agent Joseph Testani said.

Dorgham was detained for three weeks on his arrival in Jordan. He has since married and lives with his wife and their 2-year-old son in Bethlehem.