September 30, 2005

CORRECTED – New charges filed against 2 Albany, NY Muslims

Please read in third paragraph ... Hossain, 50, of
Bangladesh ... instead of ... Hossain, 50, of Yemen ... .

A corrected story follows.

By Holly McKenna

ALBANY, New York (Reuters) - Two Islamic men accused in an
FBI sting are facing new charges of helping a terrorist
organization a year after the judge in the case said there was
no evidence of their links to extremist groups.

A federal grand jury indicted Yassin Aref and Mohammed
Hossain late on Thursday on nine new charges each, including
conspiracy to provide material support to Pakistani-based
Jaish-e-Mohammed, which the U.S. government brands as a
terrorist organization.

Aref, 35, is an Iraqi-born Kurdish refugee and imam at a
mosque in Albany that was raided by the FBI in August 2004.
Hossain, 50, of Bangladesh, owns an Albany pizzeria. They were
to be arraigned on Friday before U.S. Magistrate David Homer.

The indictments were based on new evidence presented by
prosecutors who, since being sharply criticized by the judge a
year ago, have traveled the globe to strengthen their case.

Judge Homer last year said there was no evidence the two
men had contact with a terrorist group and released them from
jail, saying that the government's case was much weaker than it
had first appeared.

Those comments came as civil libertarians and anti-war
protesters accused U.S. authorities of jumping to unfounded
conclusions against Muslims since the attacks of September 11,
2001. The United States has arrested thousands of people on
terrorism charges since 9/11 but has seen one high-profile case
after another collapse.

In the most recent collapse, the military dropped spy
charges this month against Syrian-American airman Ahmad al
Halabi, who had faced the death penalty on accusations of
aiding and abetting the enemy through espionage at the U.S.
prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In the Albany case, prosecutors assembled a 48-page
memorandum documenting Aref's life, including journal entries,
taped speeches, phone calls and a poem written by Aref that
seems to praise jihad, or holy war.

The government also contends Aref aided the Palestinian
group Hamas and extremists linked to insurgent attacks on U.S.
forces in Iraq.

The new indictments come in addition to 19 previous counts
each of money laundering, attempting to provide material
support to Jaish-e-Mohammed, and conspiracy charges relating to
the FBI sting.

Prosecutors say the two men willingly participated in a
plot to launder $50,000 from the sale of a shoulder-fired
missile as part of a fake plan to assassinate a Pakistani

They have been under house arrest for the past year,
wearing electronic monitoring bracelets and only allowed to go
to work and the mosque. Federal prosecutors want them jailed
pending trial.

Albany is home to nearly 8,000 Muslims, some of whom have
criticized the arrest of the two men and have refrained from
attending mosques for fear of being labeled terrorists.