- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2006

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Jury selection started yesterday in the trial of an ice cream vendor and his son who are charged in a federal terrorism investigation.

Umer Hayat, 47, and Hamid Hayat, 23, are among five members of the region’s Pakistani community arrested last summer after a nearly three-year terrorism investigation. The others, two local imams and a son of one of the religious leaders, have since been deported to Pakistan for immigration violations.

Hamid Hayat is charged with lying to the FBI about attending a terrorism camp in Pakistan in 2003 and 2004. His father is charged with lying when he denied his son had attended such a camp. Both have pleaded not guilty.

The Hayats, who are U.S. citizens, will be tried together but with separate juries because prosecutors say their statements implicate each other.

They were arrested in June shortly after returning from Pakistan. If convicted, the younger Hayat faces up to 31 years in prison, while the elder Hayat could receive eight years in prison.

Their trial is expected to show how the Lodi, Calif., arrests fit into the federal government’s efforts to track down suspected terrorists on U.S. soil since the September 11 attacks.

The case has had people in suspense in Lodi, a quiet agricultural city just south of Sacramento that is known for its wines and annual grape festival.

“Everyone was wondering, is there a terrorist cell?” Mayor Susan Hitchcock said.

Nationwide, 407 persons have been charged with domestic and foreign terrorism-related crimes since the attacks, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Of those, 228 have been convicted or pleaded guilty.

Federal investigators began examining the Pakistani community in and around Lodi shortly after September 11, 2001. About 2,500 people of Pakistani descent call the area home. Most are descendants of laborers who began arriving in the early 1900s to work in the area’s orchards and packing plants.

A government informant infiltrated the area’s Muslim community and by August 2002 had the first recorded conversation with Hamid Hayat. It is among about 1,000 hours of tapes turned over to defense lawyers.

Hamid Hayat spent half his life attending school and living with relatives in Pakistan. According to a federal indictment, he left for Pakistan in April 2003 and attended an al Qaeda training camp outside the city of Rawalpindi between October 2003 and November 2004.

Prosecutors say Hamid Hayat failed a lie-detector test and admitted attending one terrorist camp for three days in 2000 and a second for three to six months in 2003 and 2004. FBI agents said they found a book titled “Virtues of Jihad” in his bedroom.

Authorities contend that he planned to attack hospitals and supermarkets in the United States.

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