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5 Alleged Al Qaeda Supporters Deported

June 26, 2003|From Associated Press

BLANTYRE, Malawi — Five men accused of funneling money to the Al Qaeda network were taken out of Malawi by U.S. authorities even though a judge had barred their deportation from the southern African country, officials said Wednesday.

The men, all foreigners, were arrested Sunday in an operation involving the CIA and Malawi's National Intelligence Bureau. Malawian authorities handed the men over to U.S. officials Monday, said Fahad Assani, Malawi's director of public prosecutions.

The men were flown to Botswana, Malawian intelligence officials said on condition of anonymity. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Malawi declined to comment, and U.S. officials in Botswana did not return a phone call.

Officials in Malawi said the men had been on the CIA's "watch list" since the 1998 bombings at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The disclosure that the men had left the country negated court hearings about their fate and exasperated Assani, who said he was unaware of the hand-over until Wednesday.

A judge had issued an emergency injunction Monday -- before the men were turned over to the U.S. -- barring their deportation, sources said. Not knowing the men were gone, the High Court ruled Tuesday that the deportation efforts were illegal and demanded that prosecutors charge the men or free them. Malawi has no extradition treaty with the U.S.

Outside the courthouse, about 100 people protested the hand-over. Ella Ulusam, whose husband was among those arrested, burst into tears. "I don't know where he is. I don't know whether he is alive or dead," she said.

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