Graduate Student Released From Gov't Custody, Back in Saudi Arabia

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A Saudi graduate student has been released from government custody and returned to his home country after spending more than two months in a federal prison, his supporters said Thursday.

Federal authorities have refused to discuss the case of University of Arizona (search) linguistics student Muhammad Al-Qudhai'een (search) since June, when the father of five was taken into custody and detained in Virginia as a material witness.

His wife said FBI agents took her husband, but she, friends and Islamic leaders said they were never told the reasons behind his detention.

Deedra Abboud, of the Council on American Islamic Relations (search) in Phoenix, said she was told Muhammad Al-Qudhai'een had been released from federal custody. She said Al-Qudhai'een called a friend in Tucson after he arrived in Saudi Arabia.

"He was deported without charges to Saudi Arabia," said Abboud.

Russell Ahr, a spokesman for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, confirmed that Al-Qudhai'een had returned to Saudi Arabia but said he wasn't deported.

"His departure had nothing to do with an order of deportation, and he was never in the custody of this organization," Ahr said.

Ahr declined to say which government agency had custody of the student or provide details of his departure from the United States.

Susan Herskovits, spokeswoman for the FBI office in Phoenix, declined to comment.

This summer, Al-Qudhai'een's wife, Modhi, returned to Saudi Arabia with their children because she had not gotten any information about her husband's detention.

Several newspapers have reported that Al-Qudhai'een was an acquaintance of Zakaria Soubra, an Arizona flight school student who was named in a July 2001 memo by a Phoenix FBI agent. The memo warned that large numbers of Arabs were training as pilots in the United States.

Soubra was deported to Lebanon and never charged with a crime.