- The Washington Times - Friday, May 17, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS

An Annandale man investigated by a federal grand jury for terrorist activity has pleaded guilty to lying on a passport application.

Mohammed Osman Idris, 24, drew the attention of federal authorities when he and a friend, Mohammed El-Yacoubi of Fairfax, flew to Israel in December. Israeli authorities would not let the men into the country because of a letter they found belonging to Mr. El-Yacoubi.

The letter, written in Arabic by Mr. El-Yacoubi's brother, states, "When I heard what you are going to carry out, my heart was filled with the feeling of grief and joy because you are the closest human being to my heart."

The letter also said: "It is incumbent upon me to encourage you and help you, because Islam urges Jihad for the sake of Allah," according to court records.

The charge against Idris, though, has nothing to do with terrorism. He pleaded guilty Wednesday to a single charge of making false statements on a passport application.

Thomas Walsh, Idris' attorney, said his client remains under suspicion by federal agents who continue to investigate the case, but that Idris is not a terrorist.

"This is not what it was made out to be. The government was chasing its tail on this," Mr. Walsh said. "He's not a terrorist in any way. This was a young, 24-year-old man who was going on a trip. That's it."

According to a statement of facts, Idris falsely stated that he lost his passport and needed a new one. He did so because his old passport showed that he had traveled to Saudi Arabia, and he believed that would harm his chances of entering Israel.

Investigators discovered Idris was lying when they found he used his old passport as identification to cash a check, two days after he said he had lost the passport.

He also admitted to lying to a grand jury about the passport. The court records show that Idris testified twice before the grand jury, in January and February, and lied about the lost passport.

The grand jury was trying to determine whether Idris and Mr. El-Yacoubi had gone to Israel "in order to provide material support to terrorist organizations such as Hamas and/or Islamic Jihad," according to the statement of facts.

Idris was released pending sentencing Aug. 2. He faces a maximum of 25 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.


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