Tuesday, May 31, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — Two U.S. citizens accused of being al Qaeda loyalists were each ordered held without bail yesterday when they appeared in federal courtrooms in New York and Florida.

Tarik Shah, 42, of New York, waved and smiled at supporters and appeared relaxed at his preliminary hearing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan before Magistrate Judge Theodore Katz.

In Fort Pierce, Fla., Rafiq Abdus Sabir, 50, told U.S. District Judge James Hopkins that he had not hired an attorney, and the judge set the next hearing in his case for Monday.

Neither defendant entered a plea on the single charge of conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda.

Prosecutors say the two men swore a formal oath of loyalty to al Qaeda as they conspired to use their skills in martial arts and medicine to aid international terrorism.

The men were arrested Friday in a sting operation that the government said began in 2003. If convicted, each could face a sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

An attorney for Mr. Shah, Anthony Ricco, said outside court that the case was a “desperate prosecution by our government.” He described Mr. Shah as a world-renowned jazz musician, a father and a family man.

“They are prosecutions based upon religious beliefs,” said Mr. Ricco, a veteran terrorism defense lawyer.

Melanie Dyre, who described herself as a fellow musician, described Mr. Shah as “a beautiful person and a wonderful musician.”

A spokesman for the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, Fla., Dan McBride, defended Dr. Sabir outside court in Florida as a man who traveled between the United States and Saudi Arabia to earn enough money to support his wife and their two sons.

“He has no money,” Mr. McBride said. “He works over there, then comes back and lives over here.”

Prosecutors said Dr. Sabir, an Ivy League-educated physician, agreed to treat jihadists, or holy warriors, in Saudi Arabia. Mr. Shah, a jazz musician and a self-described martial arts expert, purportedly agreed to train them in hand-to-hand combat.

The complaint unsealed Monday described Mr. Shah’s zeal to train “brothers” for urban warfare. It said both men pledged their allegiance to al Qaeda during a May 20 meeting in the Bronx, N.Y.

The FBI videotaped Mr. Shah and an informant visiting a Long Island, N.Y., warehouse to see whether it would be adequate as a training site, the papers said.

Mr. Shah also discussed a desire to open a machine shop to make weapons, the complaint said.

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