Trial of Islamic Center of Boca Raton member Rafiq Sabir moved to New York - weapons found in gated community home
Doctor who 'keeps weapons in his home & vowed to obey Osama Bin Laden's commands' 'has contempt for the U.S. generally'
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that a Boca Raton doctor charged with supporting al Qaeda will be transported to New York for a preliminary hearing later this month.
FORT PIERCE - A federal prosecutor Wednesday described Dr. Rafiq Sabir as a man deep in debt who dislikes America, keeps weapons in his home and vowed to obey Osama bin Laden's commands.
"He has a contempt for authority and the U.S. generally," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Brown said in a hearing for the Boca Raton physician.
But Sabir's supporters and attorney countered that he is a caring healer, an American Muslim who has been wrongly tangled up in the war on terrorism.
"This is like the Crusades all over again," Sabir's cousin, Leroy Walker, 62, said Wednesday at a federal courthouse in Fort Pierce. "The man isn't political or fanatical. He doesn't push his faith on anyone."
U.S. Magistrate Judge James Hopkins ordered Sabir to be taken by federal marshals to New York for a preliminary hearing later this month. Sabir will continue to be jailed without bond, Hopkins ruled Wednesday.
The government alleges that Sabir, 50, and a friend in New York, Tarik Shah, 42, met at a Bronx apartment on May 20 with an undercover FBI agent who purported to be an al Qaeda recruiter.
Prosecutors say the men swore an oath of loyalty to al Qaeda and bin Laden. They allegedly planned to use their skills in medicine and martial arts to treat and train terrorists.
At Wednesday's hearing, Brown presented an overview of the government's case, highlighting points of an 18-page complaint filed last month that led to Sabir's May 28 arrest.
Brown also explained to Hopkins that Sabir is $750,000 in debt for student loans, child support and taxes. She described a 2002 case in which Sabir was charged in a domestic-violence spat with his common-law wife, Arlene Morgan.
And she said a search of Sabir's home after his arrest revealed charred pages of Arabic writing in a backyard grill. Agents also found swords and other martial-arts equipment in his home.
The core of the prosecution's case against Sabir is the recorded conversation from May 20 in which he allegedly swore loyalty to al Qaeda. Sabir's attorney argued Wednesday that his client's bayat -- a traditional Islamic oath -- was spiritual and did not state or imply a desire to harm Americans.
As Brown spoke, Sabir at times shook his head and jotted notes to his attorney, Lighthouse Point lawyer Khurrum Wahid.
Wahid interrogated FBI agent Kevin Ramieri, one of the agents who investigated and arrested Sabir.
The defense attorney said his client has been actively paying his debts with money he earned working in hospitals in Palm Beach County and, in the past two years, Saudi Arabia.
Wahid noted that all charges against Sabir in the 2002 case were dismissed. Morgan came to Wednesday's hearing but did not speak to reporters.
Wahid also said that the writing found in Sabir's grill may have been from the Koran, Islam's holy book. Burning tattered or worn pages of the Koran is an acceptable method of disposal, according to Islamic tradition.
Wahid said after the two-hour hearing that he was not surprised by the judge's decision to continue to keep Sabir detained without bond.
"In a case like this, I didn't expect he would be released," said Wahid, who added that Sabir's wife and her family are paying his legal fees. "But the most important thing we all need to recognize is there's nothing more un-American than assuming someone is guilty.
May 31 2005
Background on the arrest of Rafiq Sabir and Tariq Shahhttp://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-05-31-terror_x.htm# N.Y. man, Fla. man denied bail after arrests in al-Qaeda sting By Toni Locy, USA TODAY A New York martial-arts expert and a Florida doctor who both allegedly swore an oath to al-Qaeda were held without bail Tuesday in the latest FBI sting operation to target U.S. citizens suspected of plotting terrorist activity.
However, an FBI affidavit is unclear about whether investigators believe Tarik Ibn Osman Shah, 32, and Rafiq Sabir, 50, are part of a terrorist cell. Shah bragged at one point to an undercover agent posing as an al-Qaeda recruiter that he had trained many "brothers" in the USA, the affidavit said.
The case is the second recent FBI sting that has uncovered alleged plots by U.S. citizens to assist al-Qaeda in its war against America. On May 20, Ronald Allen Grecula, 68, of Bangor, Pa., was arrested in Houston for allegedly attempting to build and sell a bomb to an undercover FBI agent disguised as a terror operative.
Agent Matthew Bertron, a spokesman for the FBI's New York office, said stings are an effective FBI tool in counterterrorism cases. "The FBI is ... working on a lot of different ways to go after people who are trying to hurt American citizens," Bertron said.
Shah, a martial-arts expert who also describes himself as a jazz musician, was arrested in the Bronx on Saturday. Sabir, a doctor, was arrested the same day in Boca Raton, Fla. Shah offered to train al-Qaeda members in hand-to-hand combat while Sabir wanted to treat wounded jihadists, the affidavit said.
A lawyer for Shah, Anthony Ricco, said the case was a "desperate prosecution by our government." He described Shah as a world-renowned musician, a father and a family man.
"They are prosecutions based upon religious beliefs," said Ricco, a veteran terrorism defense lawyer.
Melanie Dyre, who described herself as a fellow musician, described Shah as "a beautiful person and a wonderful musician."
A spokesman for the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, Dan McBride, defended Sabir as a man who traveled between the USA and Saudi Arabia to earn enough money to support his wife and their two sons.
"He has no money," McBride said. "He works over there, then comes back and lives over here."
Both men are charged with conspiring to provide material support to al-Qaeda. If convicted, they could each face up to 15 years in prison.
The FBI said that during the two-year investigation, it recorded numerous meetings between Shah and a paid FBI informant.
The bureau also recorded conversations that Shah and Sabir had with the undercover agent, the affidavit said.
In one of those meetings, the affidavit said, Shah showed the undercover agent how he had fashioned his prayer beads into a weapon that could be used to strangle a person.
"Shah indicated that his 'greatest cover has been' his career as a 'professional' jazz musician," FBI agent Brian Murphy wrote in the complaint