- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 28, 2005

The attorney for a Northern California man charged with lying to the FBI about terrorist training in Pakistan says the government is deporting two Islamic religious leaders who could help clear his client.

Umer Hyatt, 47, is a naturalized U.S. citizen of Pakistani origin who lives in Lodi, Calif., near Sacramento. Mr. Hyatt and his son, Hamid Hyatt, 22, were arrested in June. Both face charges of lying to the FBI about the son’s reported attendance at a terrorist training camp near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. Both men were denied bail at a hearing last week.

Umer Hyatt’s attorney, Johnny Griffin, said that two imams — Islamic religious leaders — also arrested in connection with the case could help to clear his client’s name.

Mr. Griffin says that both the imams, who are being deported for overstaying their religious-worker visas, made potentially exculpatory statements about his client.

In interviews shortly after his arrest in June, Adil Khan made statements “helpful” to his client, Mr. Griffin says, quoting a two-paragraph summary he said prosecutors provided him.

Khan — and his son, who was arrested with him and faced similar immigration charges — agreed to be deported July 15, and returned to Pakistan last month.

The other imam, Shabbir Ahmed, is still in U.S. custody, although he also agreed to be deported. Mr. Griffin says he has been provided with a heavily redacted transcript of an interview in which Ahmed “makes statements that are clearly potentially exculpatory” of the Hyatts.

Mr. Griffin said the comments indicated that Ahmed “had no knowledge of my client’s involvement in any jihad-type activities, and did not believe he would be involved in those activities.”

The normal course of action in such a case, Mr. Griffin said, would be to file a sworn statement, called an affidavit, declaring that the person’s testimony was essential for a fair trial. If the court accepted the affidavit, the individual could be detained as a material witness until the trial took place.

But Mr. Griffin said that from a written transcript, especially one so heavily redacted, it was hard to determine the context of some of those comments.

Prosecutors agree that the men made potentially exculpatory statements during interviews, but say they have fulfilled their duty under the law by notifying Mr. Griffin.

“We know very well what our discovery obligations under the law are,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Brown said, “and we have fulfilled them to a T.”

Prosecutors have “gone beyond our technical obligations,” he said.

“We’ve actually given him transcripts,” Mr. Brown said, adding that in such cases, “the incentive for the government is to ensure that they are complying … because it is the prosecution that will suffer if it turns out that there are any violations.”

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