- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2001

Federal prosecutors yesterday met with a Muslim cleric from Laurel in connection with the investigation into last week's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, his lawyer said.
Stanley L. Cohen said his client, Moataz Hallak, "answered a host of questions the vast majority of which were not about the hijackings" during the three-hour session.
Mr. Hallak, a former imam at the Central Arlington Mosque in Texas, moved to an apartment complex in the 9500 block of Muirkirk Road in Laurel about a year ago after disagreements with his mosque's community.
During the investigation of the 1998 African embassy bombings, prosecutors said Mr. Hallak, 41, had "served as a contact" between members of the organization of Muslim terrorist Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in last week's attacks.
Mr. Hallak was granted immunity in exchange for testifying in the trial of four men for conspiracy in the bombings.
Mr. Cohen yesterday said Mr. Hallak was aware of the Friday arrest of Mohamed Abdo, who federal authorities say worked as a computer analyst for a subsidiary of American Airlines, one of two carriers whose jets were crashed in last week's attacks.
Mr. Abdo, who was arrested by the FBI in Dallas and taken to a U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) detention center, was a member of the mosque where Mr. Hallak preached in Texas.
Last year, administrators of the Arlington mosque that Mr. Hallak served filed a temporary restraining order against Mr. Hallak, Mr. Abdo, and five other men. Mosque administrators accused them of being abusive and disruptive during services.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Tuesday that among other locations, Mr. Abdo in recent years had an address in Beltsville, just a few miles from Mr. Hallak's residence. Mr. Abdo is among 75 persons detained by the INS on immigration charges since the Sept. 11 attacks. Lori Bailey, an FBI spokeswoman in Dallas, said other factors led officials to detain Mr. Abdo last week, but she declined to discuss what they were. Federal prosecutors yesterday did not ask Mr. Hallak about his involvement with Mr. Abdo, Mr. Cohen said.
This is not the first time federal authorities have explored Mr. Hallak's connection to bin Laden.
Wadih Hage, another former member of Mr. Hallak's Arlington congregation, was convicted in May in the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and is awaiting sentencing. Hage has admitted to being the personal secretary to bin Laden.
During questioning yesterday, Mr. Cohen said prosecutors did not ask his client about his connection with the 1998 bombings.
Mr. Cohen said prosecutors were "fishing" in light of reports of terrorist planning activity in the Laurel area leading up to the attacks. The imam of the Islamic Community Center of Laurel yesterday said, contrary to reports that Mr. Hallak teaches there, he works at the Dar us Salaam mosque in College Park.
When reporters arrived at the mosque, a young man guarding the entrance told them they were not allowed to enter and needed an appointment.
Brian DeBose, Jerry Seper and Margie Hyslop contributed to this report.

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