Father Charged in Fed Terror Probe Released

A man whose son was convicted of supporting terrorism by attending an Al Qaeda training camp in Pakistan was released from federal custody but declined to comment.

Umer Hayat, a 48-year-old ice cream vendor, had been held since he and his son were arrested last June.

He had been charged with two counts of lying to the FBI about his son's attendance at the training camp, but his case ended in a mistrial last week after the jury said it was deadlocked.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers will return to court Friday to determine whether he should face a new trial.

Last week, a U.S. District Court judge lowered Hayat's bail from $1.2 million to $390,000, clearing the way for his Monday release. He will be confined to his home in the California Central Valley agricultural town of Lodi and was fitted with an electronic monitoring device.

Hayat, a naturalized U.S. citizen, walked out of the federal courthouse with his lawyer, Johnny Griffin III. Shortly before his release, he learned that his father had died Saturday afternoon.

"We stand here with a very heavy heart right now," Griffin said. "It's a bittersweet moment right now. His father tried to hang on."

Because Hayat is under house arrest, Griffin had to get a special court order so he could attend his father's funeral on Monday evening.

"It's been an emotional day," Griffin said in a telephone interview. "At least he'll get to be with his mother and brother so they can be a comfort to each other."

Griffin declined to let his client speak to reporters.

Hayat, wearing a black suit, blue shirt and red tie, stood silent by Griffin's side as they left the courthouse. He looked thinner than he did when he was arrested, and his hair and beard were cut short and had turned mostly gray over the past year.

The U.S. attorney's office, which had argued against his release, declined comment.

A separate jury last week convicted Hayat's son, 23-year-old Hamid Hayat, of one count of supporting terrorists by attending the camp in 2003 and three counts of lying about it to the FBI.

Hamid Hayat, a U.S. citizen who has a sixth-grade education and was working at a cherry-packing shed when he was arrested, faces up to 39 years in prison when he is sentenced July 14.

The FBI began focusing on the 2,500-member Pakistani community in Lodi shortly after the September 2001 terrorist attacks. Agents initially were interested in pursuing a tip that Lodi businesses were sending money to terror groups abroad.

They recruited a 32-year-old former Lodi resident of Pakistani descent as an informant, who befriended Hamid Hayat and began secretly recording their conversations. In some of those discussions, the younger Hayat said he planned to attend a terrorist training camp in Pakistan during a visit there from 2003 to 2005.

Mojaddidi said her client never actually attended the camp and argued that prosecutors had no direct evidence that he had.

The Hayats were arrested last June, shortly after Hamid Hayat returned from Pakistan, along with two Muslim clerics who later were deported for immigration violations.

Both Hayats gave separate videotaped confessions to FBI agents, evidence that was played to jurors and presented a challenge for the defense. The defense lawyers said their clients gave the confessions after they were worn down by hours of questioning and were merely responding to leading questions by FBI agents.

Last week, a juror on Hamid Hayat's jury signed a statement saying she was pressured into voting for the guilty verdicts.

His lawyer, Mojaddidi, filed the affidavit as part of a request for a new trial. Prosecutors said they will fight that motion.