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Italy to Release Stowaway Held on Terror Charges

November 16, 2001|Associated Press

PALMI, Italy — An Egyptian Canadian stowaway who was arrested on terrorism charges after he was found with high-tech equipment in an Italian port was ordered freed Thursday.

Amir Farid Rizk, 43, was arrested Oct. 18, the first person to be charged in Italy under a new international anti-terrorism law.

He was found in a shipping container equipped with a satellite phone, raising suspicions that he was part of a terrorist network.

His lawyers, however, argued that Rizk was innocent and was fleeing religious discrimination and personal legal problems in his native Egypt. They said he is a Maronite Christian, a tiny minority within the Muslim country.

Prosecutor Roberto Di Palma said he would continue his investigation despite the court ruling.

"This man is hiding something. Someone who is escaping from Egypt in a container is certainly trying to hide something," he told Associated Press a few hours after the court announced its decision.

Defense lawyers said the prosecution overlooked the fact that Rizk had not only a satellite phone and a computer with him but also household goods, including a dishwasher, clothing and even family photos.

They said the container was being shipped to Canada, while Rizk intended to fly to Montreal from Rome.

Rizk told his lawyers that he had fled because of a family dispute and was worried that authorities would not have allowed him to fly out.

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