Published January 13, 2015
Federal agents on Tuesday searched the apartment of a prominent local Islamic leader detained by an FBI-led terrorism task force and a judge ordered him held without bail pending trial.
FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele said the FBI and Portland's Joint Terrorism Task Force searched the apartment of Sheik Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye, but she did not disclose other details.
Kariye faces felony charges of unlawful use of a Social Security number and unlawful possession of a U.S. government document. He has pleaded innocent to both charges; a trial is scheduled for Nov. 5.
He was arrested Sunday at Portland International Airport by the task force as he tried to board a Northwest Airlines flight en route to the United Arab Emirates with his brother and four children.
Kariye, 41, serves as an imam, or prayer leader, at the Islamic Center of Portland-Masjed As-Saber.
Federal investigators said explosives residue was detected on two pieces of luggage that had been confiscated after Kariye's arrest.
Robert Ramos, senior inspector for the U.S. Customs Service, testified Tuesday at Kariye's detention hearing that he has never had a bag test positive for explosives residue, though he has tested hundreds of bags.
"We test hundreds and hundreds of bags, and this is the first time I've come across a positive result," Ramos said in federal court.
The insides of two of the 12 bags checked in by Kariye's party tested positive for TNT residue, Ramos said. Inspectors found a checkbook bearing Kariye's name and his divorce decree in one of those bags.
Kariye's attorney, Philip A. Lewis, said the machine testing for residue picks up traces invisible to the human eye and said Kariye's bags could have been contaminated by other bags or clothing.
"What we have is a positive test here for something so minute it boggles the mind," said Lewis. "We have no idea when the item was contaminated, how long ago and in what amount."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Gorder said Kariye had "several thousand" dollars in his possession when he was arrested and had told his ex-wife he did not plan to return.
Lewis said Kariye, a U.S. citizen, was going to Dubai to take a teaching job and took his children to immerse them in Arabic culture.
Alaa Abunijem, president of the Islamic Center, said he had given Kariye $2,000 for his trip and had known for several weeks that Kariye planned to go abroad. He said it is common practice for Muslims living in the U. S. to take their children on extended trips to the Middle East to educate them in Arabic language and culture.
Friends and family said Kariye came to the U.S. in 1982 and attended a Mennonite high school in Salem for one year, then went to Portland Community College and Portland State University.
He spent 1990-93 in Pakistan, then returned to Portland, where he has lived ever since. He became a citizen in 1998.