Guyana detains US Muslim cleric in terrorism probe
GEORGETOWN, Guyana – Akbar Muhammad, a U.S. Muslim cleric visiting this South American country, was detained Thursday on suspicion of ties to drugs and terrorism, Guyana police said.
Officers raided the Princess Hotel in the capital of Georgetown and took Muhammad to the department's headquarters for questioning, said Seelal Persaud, assistant police commissioner.
"Based on the information we have, he is involved in drugs and terrorism," Persaud told The Associated Press. He declined further comment and no further details were available.
Muhammad has been a spokesman for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, with whom he has worked since the 1960s.
Local defense lawyer Nigel Hughes told the AP that police detained Muhammad to ask about opposition leaders and other people such as black activists he met with after arriving in Guyana earlier this week from Illinois.
"Police have absolutely nothing to go on with this man," he said. "They have nothing to work with. ... I think authorities were a bit rattled by the people he met so far."
Hughes said he will try to obtain bail again for Muhammad on Friday.
Messages left with the Illinois-based Nation of Islam National Center and with the Truth Establishment Institute, which handles speaking engagements for Muhammad, were not returned.
Muhammad had been expected to attend a rally Thursday afternoon organized by black activists in the mining town of Linden just south of the capital.
He has visited Guyana several times in recent years but had never been detained by authorities during previous visits.
It is unclear if U.S. federal authorities, including the FBI, were investigating Muhammad. "The FBI would not be able to comment on nor confirm information provided by another country," said FBI spokeswoman Kathy Wright.
Police also detained a Canadian-Guyanese citizen identified as Phillip Muhammad at the hotel, Persaud, the police spokesman, said.
Persaud said both men will have access to attorneys and embassy officials. He declined to release further details about the investigation.
Akbar Muhammad has faced previous legal troubles.
In January 2009, his supporters gathered in Chicago to raise money for legal fees following an FBI raid on his house, according to a report in The Final Call, a newspaper founded by Farrakhan.
According to court records, Muhammad pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud in April 2009 and received a five-year probation in September 2009. He was accused of using different names to obtain lines of credit and mortgages from 1983 through 2007.
Chicago defense attorney Lewis Myers Jr., who helped represent Muhammad, did not return a call for comment.
Muhammad grew up in New York City and also has lived in Chicago and St. Louis. He helped Farrakhan during Jesse Jackson's first presidential campaign run, and he is the international representative for the Nation of Islam, according to a biography released by the Truth Establishment Institute.
Associated Press writer Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.