- The Washington Times - Friday, October 17, 2003

BOSTON (AP) — A federal judge found probable cause that a translator at the prison for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay lied to investigators after he was found carrying classified documents.

The ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Swartwood allows the case against Ahmed Fathy Mehalba to move forward to a grand jury for possible indictment.

Mr. Mehalba, 31, was arrested last month as he arrived at Logan International Airport after visiting his native Egypt.

The judge found late Thursday that Mr. Mehalba knowingly made a false statement to U.S. Customs officials and FBI agents when they asked him if he had any classified information on compact discs in his luggage. He denied it repeatedly and was charged with making a false statement.

A review of one compact disc found 368 documents labeled “SECRET” or “SECRET/NO FORN,” and officials later determined they were classified.

Mr. Mehalba had security clearance to see classified documents through his job as a translator at the U.S. base, but he was not allowed to travel with such documents.

In his ruling, the judge said the compact disc contained secret information obtained from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He also cited a later search of Mr. Mehalba’s personal computer — which he sold before leaving Guantanamo — that turned up similar classified documents.

Mr. Mehalba’s attorney, Michael Andrews, said yesterday he had not yet seen the ruling, but that it was expected.

“Probable cause is not a high burden for the government to meet,” Mr. Andrews said.

During a hearing Wednesday, Mr. Andrews said Mr. Mehalba did not know there were classified documents on the computer disc he was carrying.

Mr. Mehalba will remain in federal custody while awaiting trial. The next hearing date has not been set.

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