- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 22, 2004

The one civilian among four men arrested in the probe into security breaches at Guantanamo Bay has been ordered to be held without bail pending his trial in a Massachusetts federal court.

Ahmed Fathy Mehalba, a U.S. citizen of Egyptian descent who worked as an Arabic translator at Guantanamo, has been in custody since his arrest in September on charges of lying about classified materials he was carrying.

In a decision that became public on Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Swartwood III wrote that because of “substantial family ties to Egypt … Mr. Mehalba poses a flight risk.”

“[He] has no incentive to remain in the United States,” the judge wrote. “If given the opportunity, he will return to Egypt to avoid prosecution and the substantial likelihood of incarceration.”

The order came in response to a request by Mr. Mehalba, 31, to be released to a nonsecure prison where he would be allowed to leave to see his counsel and potentially find employment before his trial, a date for which has not been set.

The judge noted Mr. Mehalba’s seized U.S. passport shows he traveled “extensively in the last five years to Egypt.”

He was returning from Egypt on Sept. 29 when authorities arrested him at Logan International Airport in Boston. Among some 100 compact discs in his possession, one was found to contain hundreds of documents labeled secret.

In November, Mr. Mehalba was indicted on charges of unauthorized possession of documents relating to national defense, gathering, transmitting or losing the documents and lying to authorities. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carry a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Court papers indicate Mr. Mehalba was an employee of the defense contract firm Titan Systems Corp. when he was posted as a linguist at Guantanamo Naval Base. The massive prison built on the base since the September 11 attacks holds about 660 suspects in the global war on terror.

Mr. Mehalba worked there as a translator from November 2000 through July 2003 when he left for a personal trip to Egypt.

He was the third man arrested in the Guantanamo probe, which began last year with the arrest of another translator, U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ahmad I. al-Halabi.

The Syrian-born airman has been arraigned before a military judge on charges of attempted espionage and faces life in prison if convicted of trying to deliver some 180 written messages from Guantanamo detainees to an unidentified citizen of Syria.

Others arrested include Army Capt. James “Yousef” Yee and Army Reserve Col. Jack Farr.

Capt. Yee, who was a Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo, has pleaded not guilty in military court to charges of mishandling classified information, disobeying orders, storing pornography on a government computer and adultery.

Col. Jack Farr, who was on a six-month assignment as an intelligence officer at Guantanamo, was charged Nov. 29 with lying to investigators and transporting secret documents without proper containers.

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