- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 (UPI) — The wife of a man suspected of having links to terrorists was given a passport and helped out of the country by the Saudi Embassy, despite a grand jury subpoena requesting testimony from the woman, it was reported Wednesday.

The Washington Post said federal officials were outraged when they learned that Maha Hafeez Marri and her five children had been flown to Saudi Arabia in November. The officials claim the woman's departure hampers the investigation of Ali S. Marri, a Qatari who has been charged with lying to the FBI regarding telephone calls made after Sept. 11, 2001.

Maha Marri had her passport confiscated by the FBI after her husband was arrested in late 2001 in Illinois, the Post said. The newspaper said she was given a new passport by the Saudi Embassy, which told the State Department of her departure one day after she left.

The embassy told the Post that the women left after waiting for nearly about 11 months for the FBI to interview her.

"You get a grand jury subpoena, you can't sit here for a year doing nothing," Nail A. Jubeir, a Saudi spokesman, told the newspaper.

Federal authorities told the newspaper they had been in negotiations with the woman's lawyers to set up an interview, rather than having Maha Marri appear in person before the grand jury.

An attorney for the woman was quoted as saying they "did not believe there was any legal impediment to her departure" because the grand jury had recessed.

Officials from the Saudi Embassy sent the State Department a note requesting assistance with her passport, but that agency told the Saudis they could not clear the way to let the woman leave the United States and suggested the FBI be contacted, the Post said.

An attorney hired by the embassy to represent Maha Marri said her client was under various hardships — such as being ill and having her children out of school for several months — making her return to Saudi Arabia imperative.

"All of the relevant parties were informed before the fact and after the fact that the interview had to take place because her situation was deteriorating legally and otherwise," the attorney, Malea Kiblan, told the Post.

Federal authorities said that Ali Marri, who arrived in the United States with his family on Sept. 10, 2001, to pursue a graduate degree at Bradley University, contacted Mustafa Ahmed Hawsawi, a suspected al Qaida member. Hawsawi, the government alleges, had received calls from several of the men suspected of carrying out the 9/11 hijackings and managed a bank account the men had used. Ali Mari has pleaded innocent to charges filed against him.

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