Two terrorist suspects smile because another stupid judge releases them on bail!
TAMPA, Florida – Two Egyptian students at a south Florida university were indicted Friday on charges of carrying explosive materials across states lines and one was accused of teaching the other how to use them for violent reasons.Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed, 24, an engineering graduate student and teaching assistant at the Tampa-based University of South Florida, faces terrorism-related charges for teaching and demonstrating how to use the explosives.
He and Youssef Samir Megahed, 21, an engineering student, were stopped for speeding Aug. 4 in Goose Creek, South Carolina, where they have been held on state charges. A federal grand jury in Tampa handed up the indictment.
Steve Cole, a spokesman for federal prosecutors in Tampa, declined to talk about what the men may have been planning to do with the explosives.
“We expect more details may come out in their initial appearance, which will likely take place next week in Charleston, South Carolina, but we are making no further comment,” Cole said.
The two men were stopped with pipe bombs in their car near a Navy base in South Carolina where enemy combatants have been held. They were held on state charges while the FBI continued to investigate whether there was a terrorism link.
Mohamed was charged with distributing information relating to explosives, destructive devices, and weapons of mass destruction, which is a terrorism-related statute, a Justice Department official said. The crime carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.
He and Megahed both face with charges of transporting explosives in interstate commerce without permits, which carries a 10-year prison penalty. Their defense attorney, Andy Savage, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
In South Carolina, where Mohamed and Megahed have been held in the Berkeley County jail, U.S. Attorney Reginald I. Lloyd praised state and federal authorities for cooperating in the four-week investigation that initially did not look like a terrorism case.
“The arresting deputy’s vigilance and the immediate response of our local investigators and prosecutors are highly commendable,” Lloyd said in a statement.
Since the Aug. 4 arrest, authorities sought to determine whether Mohamed and Megahed were fledgling terrorists or merely college students headed to the beach with devices made from fireworks they bought at Wal-Mart in their car, as they claimed. The local sheriff in South Carolina said the explosives were “other than fireworks.”
The charges follow several searches in Tampa, including of a storage facility and a park where the explosives might have been tested, authorities said.
USF spokesman Ken Gullette declined to comment on the indictments, but he noted that the men were in the country legally on student visas, which means they had gotten the proper clearances from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“We’re educators, not investigators,” Gullette said. “We assume a student who comes to us has cleared checks and can be admitted.”
The men have been suspended from the university and their future there is unclear, he said.
The indictments are another public relations hit for USF, which is where professor Sami Al-Arian was working when he was indicted on charges of raising money for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a group that carried out bombing attacks in Israel and the West Bank and which the U.S. has branded a terrorist organization.
A six-month trial in 2005 ended in an acquittal on some counts and a hung jury on others. Before prosecutors could retry him, Al-Arian pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid the group in a nonviolent activity. He agreed to be deported when he finishes his prison sentence.
Gullette said Al-Arian’s prosecution and the arrests of the students are isolated incidents that cast USF in an unfairly negative light.
“In any location when you gather this many people you’re going to have people who do something wrong,” he said. “I think the university is victimized when things like this happen.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group that has maintained the men were innocent, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.