CONWAY, Ark. – The man accused of killing a soldier outside a recruiting center begged for FBI agents to free him from a Yemeni jail where he was "tortured" and "radicalized" by Islamic terrorists, his lawyer told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Lawyer Jim Hensley described Abdulhakim Muhammad as an impressionable youth driven to public service in an impoverished Middle Eastern country. But teachings by "hardened" terrorists in Yemen and experiences with Afghan child refugees missing limbs drove him to become someone his parents didn't recognize, Hensley said.
"Here comes the FBI, who may be able to help this guy or save his life, and then they leave and then he's got to go back in with these hardened terrorists. He's got to survive, how do you live with that?" Hensley said. "He absolutely feels that the FBI and anyone else associated with the United States government left him to the wolves, that's for certain."
Muhammad has pleaded not guilty to a capital murder charge in the death Monday of Pvt. William Long. Another soldier, Pvt. Quinton I. Ezeagwula, was wounded in the attack. Hensley said his client stood by his plea and said Muhammad wanted to hold a news conference with reporters or issue a statement to "explain himself."
A court hearing for Muhammad, 23, is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Friday in Little Rock District Court.
Hensley said Muhammad was a student at a college in Tennessee and left early to pursue volunteer work teaching English to children in Yemen. The lawless and impoverished country on the tip of the Arabian peninsula — also the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden's family — was the scene to one of Al Qaeda's most dramatic pre-9/11 attacks, the 2000 suicide bombing of the destroyer USS Cole off the Aden coast that killed 17 American sailors.
While in Yemen, Hensley said Muhammad married a woman and converted to Islam. Police detained him after his visa expired, Hensley said. A law enforcement official previously told the AP that Muhammad was arrested and jailed for using a Somali passport. Hensley said he knew nothing about his client using a Somali passport.