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THE NATION

Mosque Leaders in Terror Case Freed

Federal judge releases the men on bail, citing a translation error in a key piece of evidence and a weaker government action.

August 26, 2004|From Associated Press

TROY, N.Y. — Two mosque leaders accused of supporting terrorism were released on bail Wednesday, one day after a federal judge reversed his initial decision to keep them behind bars.

Magistrate David Homer on Tuesday set bail at $250,000 for Yassin M. Aref and Mohammed M. Hossain after concluding the men were not as dangerous as prosecutors first claimed.

Homer denied the men bail two weeks ago. But he cited a translation error in a key piece of evidence and an apparently weaker government case in his decision to set bail.

Homer said prosecutors had not presented evidence the men were in contact with terrorists. He said it appeared less likely the pair were threats to the community or substantial flight risks.

Prosecutors acknowledged a misinterpretation in a crucial document in the case. The indictment said a notebook found in a terrorist camp in northern Iraq last summer included an Arabic entry referring to Aref as "commander."

FBI translators later said the phrase in Kurdish meant "brother." Aref is an Iraqi Kurd.

Aref, 34, and Hossain, 49, were caught in an FBI sting operation built around a fictitious assassination plot against a Pakistani diplomat. An FBI informant told the suspects he was an arms dealer and asked Hossain to launder money from the sale of a shoulder-fired missile that would be used to kill a diplomat in New York City, the federal complaint said.

Aref, an imam at the Masjid as-Salam mosque in Albany, and Hossain, a mosque co-founder from Bangladesh who owns an Albany pizzeria, face charges of conspiring to launder money and promoting terrorism.

Outside of jail, Aref denied any connection to terrorists.

"I don't know why they arrested me," Aref said. "I have not any relation with any [terrorist] party or group."

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