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Traffic Charge Voided Against Muslim

Florida: The man was one of three medical students questioned in a false-alarm terror case.

September 19, 2002|From Reuters

MIAMI — Police dismissed a traffic citation against one of three Muslim medical students interrogated as terrorist suspects in a false alarm last week, the men's lawyer said Wednesday.

Collier County Sheriff's deputies issued a ticket Friday to one of the three, Kambiz Butt, charging that he failed to pay a toll on Alligator Alley, the main east-west highway through the Everglades.

The men's lawyer, David Kubiliun, said Collier Sheriff Don Hunter notified him Wednesday that authorities had voided the ticket after reviewing a videotape that showed him paying the toll.

"It's conclusive that Mr. Butt did not run that toll plaza," Kubiliun said. "This is just further evidence that the young men have been telling the truth all along.

"This is certainly a very positive sign."

A sheriff's dispatcher could not immediately comment late Wednesday.

Butt and two companions, Omer Choudhary and Ayman Gheith, were stopped on the Florida highway after a woman told police she overheard them in a Georgia restaurant talking about what she thought was a plot against Miami.

Florida police stopped the men near the toll plaza and closed the highway for more than 14 hours while questioning them and searching their cars for explosives. They found nothing suspicious and released them, calling the incident a false alarm.

The trio are third-year medical students at Ross University in Dominica and have insisted that they did nothing wrong. They were traveling to Florida to begin clinical training Monday at Larkin Community Hospital in Miami.

Their internships were canceled after the hospital received a barrage of threats, and Ross University was still working to find somewhere else for them to train, Kubiliun said.

Choudhary and Gheith were born in the United States and Butt is a U.S. citizen born in Iran. Kubiliun is representing them at the request of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which said the three were victims of prejudice against Muslims.

The incident occurred during a heightened state of alert surrounding the Sept. 11 anniversary of last year's attacks.

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