|A federal magistrate in Sacramento refused bail Friday for a Lodi man suspected of training in an al-Qaida camp in Pakistan, as FBI agents fanned out into the Bay Area looking for possible connections to a Lodi mosque.
The FBI arrested Hamid Hayat, a 22-year-old produce packer, earlier this week after he admitted attending a terrorist training camp near the Pakistani capital Islamabad, according to a federal affidavit. Agents also arrested his father, Umer Hayat, a 47-year-old ice cream truck driver.
Both are U.S. citizens, both are charged only with lying to federal investigators, and both have been denied bail.
Hamid Hayat told investigators he trained for six months in 2003 and 2004 at the training camp, which included instructions on "how to kill Americans," according to the affidavit. Umer Hayat told authorities he sent his son $100 a month. Both men confessed, according to the FBI affidavit, after failing a lie detector test.
Keeping the younger man in custody, U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter A. Nowinski said Friday, "The charges are very serious, and considering all the circumstances, there is a motive to flee and certainly a means to flee."
Hamid Hayat appeared in shackles in an orange jump-suit and did not speak.
His attorney, Wazhma Mojaddidi, described her client as "a warm, gentle, kind person" and told the court that he has surrendered his passport. "He is not a danger to the community."
As formal legal proceedings unfolded in Sacramento, the multiyear investigation widened. Immigration officials have detainedthree men involved in a Lodi mosque. Imams Shabbir Ahmed, 42, and Mohammad Adil Khan, 47, and Khan's son Mohammad Hassan Adil, 19, are all being held on immigration violation charges. They are scheduled to appear separately before an immigration judge in San Francisco between June 24 and July 1.
Federal officials have linked the detentions to the terrorism case but declined to explain why. FBI Special Agent LaRae Quy in the San Francisco field office said agents there are "following leads in this case from Sacramento," from where the FBI is running the investigation.
One of those leads took agents on Tuesday to the East Palo Alto bungalow of Mohammad Hakik, the 47-year-old president of Lodi's Farooqia Islamic Center. He said he was stunned as anybody about the one-hour visit and the investigation into the center.
"I was surprised what the FBI has said about these people. I was very much surprised," he said Friday, noting that agents looked through his personal bank records and those of the Farooqia center.
Mohammad Khan, one of the immigration detainees, is an officer in the center.
Other Farooqia officers could not be reached. A woman who answered the phone at Khan's home in Daly City would not respond to questions. Later, no one answered the door at the house, nor at a quiet, neat, two-story San Jose home near the Raging Waters theme park. Another officer did not return calls to his home in Henderson, Nev.
FBI Special Agent John Cauthen, from the Sacramento field office, would not say if agents had interviewed all the Farooqia officers but did say "it's normal for an investigation of this type."
"We are following every logical lead possible, and every lead is being run into the ground," Cauthen said.
He and Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Lori Haley said they expected no further arrests this weekend, but beyond that more arrests were "possible" in a case that is evolving.
In Lodi and the Bay Area, neighbors of the men under suspicion have all called the accusations of terrorist links everything from "lies" to, in Hakik's words, "unbelievable."
Nonetheless, Hakik said he willingly cooperated with authorities because "it is right for them to ask questions for homeland security. Everyone wants to be safe where we all live."
He said Lodi Muslims were only trying to build a mosque and a school. It was a legal dispute in March between the Farooqia center and the Lodi Muslim Mosque, where detained Shabbir Ahmed is a respected imam, that led many in the 700-member Pakistani community to question if the FBI is overly relying on malcontents in the rift.
"You would normally check the books of the charity and want to find somebody who's disaffected," said former FBI agent Rick Smith.
But law enforcement officials familiar with the case downplayed the importance of the schism in the Lodi Muslim community, which stems from a dispute over a land deal.
Details emerged Friday showing that federal authorities have had their eye on the Hayat men for years. On April 19, 2003, the same day the FBI affidavit said Hamid Hayat left for Pakistan, he and his father, Umer, were stopped at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C.
Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Christiana Halsey said the Hayat men carried $28,093 in U.S. currency. Agents seized $27,000. Federal law allows people to carry only $10,000 without declaring it.
Officials familiar with the stop said the Hayats told customs agents they carried exactly $10,000, during what they described as "not a routine" inquiry. The men were allowed to travel to Pakistan.
When Hamid Hayat returned to San Francisco last month he was flagged in a layover in Seoul, South Korea, because his name appeared on a "no-fly" list. Officials would not say why he appeared on the list, but clearly he had been under suspicion since 2003.
In other domestic counter-terrorism cases since 9/11, the government has relied on the testimony of detained "enemy combatants," financial tracking of Muslim charity organizations suspected of being fronts to launder money to terrorists and on electronic intercepts.
"This isn't luck. This is how it's supposed to work. They had intelligence on the kid going to the camp," Smith said. "They've got some dots connected."
According to the FBI affidavit, agents showed Hamid Hayat photographs before administering a lie-detector test. In an early draft that was altered, the affidavit said that Hamid saw "hundreds of attendees from various parts of the world."
The initial affidavit also noted he attended a Pakistan religious school, or madrassah, run by his grandfather, and that Umer Hayat admitted that the training camp was run by "a close personal friend" of the grandfather. The FBI affidavit said Hamid Hayat was influenced by his uncle, who fought with the mujahedeen in Afghanistan.
Nothing in the allegation, used to get arrest warrants, mentions the Lodi Muslim Mosque or the Farooqia Islamic Center. Published reports this week, quoting Hayat family members, said Umer Hayat carried a hidden surveillance wire into the mosque before the immigration arrests this week.
The Farooquia center's 2003 tax return and its Web site show it was prominent in the American Muslim world.
The Web site, last updated in June 2003, mentions fund-raising tours to San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta and New Jersey. Tax filings for the charity show it raised $135,000 in 2003, all from individual contributions. It showed operating expenses of just $57,544, of which one third, or $20,625, went to travel.
Farooqia's Web site also noted that in 2002 it held a national conference in Lodi, attracting imams from Oakland and Stockton to New York. The Web site points out the conference was attended by Lodi's mayor and leaders from various churches.
People familiar with the center and the mosque said the Lodi imams always preached peace and tolerance of other religions, and met with priests and rabbis.
Also reporting are Steve Geissinger in Sacramento
Jailed educator preaches tolerance friends say
The FBI alleges agents have been looking into the affairs of Mohammad Adil Khan -- an educator leading the fight to open a Muslim school in Lodi -- for years.
In federal court papers, agents link him to an associate of his father's in Pakistan who signed a holy order with Osama bin Laden calling for followers to kill Americans.
But none of these accusations matches up with the Khan friends across California say they have known for at least five years, since his arrival in the United States on a visitor's visa to launch the Farooqia Islamic Center on 18 acres in the Central Valley.
They say he's an open-minded man leading the effort to ensure that the future Islamic school is a model of tolerance, as opposed to some of the madrasahs in Pakistan that many Lodi parents worry would turn their children into extreme Islamists.
While the FBI continues to trace threads of a possible terrorist cell in Northern California, Khan, 47, is being held on a no-bond warrant in Santa Clara County's jail on an alleged immigration violation. He was swept up this week in a larger terror-related probe in which a Lodi father and son -- Umer Hayat, 47, and Hamid Hayat, 22, -- were arrested for allegedly lying to the FBI about the son's training to become a terrorist in Pakistan.
"I swear to God, he is such a good man," said Shujah Khan, a former vice president of the Lodi Muslim Mosque who helped bring Khan to the United States. "He never, ever said anything that would create hatred toward anyone. He's the one who has linked us to the Christian and Jewish communities."
Rabbi Jason Gwasdoff of Stockton's Temple Israel has met Khan at several interfaith sessions.
"My impression of Mohammad Adil is that he's a warm, kind, generous man," he said. "He's the kind of person who greets outsiders with open arms. I'm hoping that it's not guilt by association. Think of how damaging this is to his reputation."
Khan, though, has detractors.
The Lodi mosque filed a lawsuit this spring against Khan, alleging that he fraudulently transferred money raised in Lodi for the new school to an account in East Palo Alto. The suit also claims that Khan is in the United States on an expired temporary visa, and that his request for permanent residency was denied. Muhammad Shoaib, a trustee of the Lodi mosque, did not return a call Friday from the Mercury News seeking comment.
The FBI, though, paints a link between Khan's father -- Salimullah Khan -- the head of Farooqia Islamic University in Pakistan, and an associate, Fazlur Rehman Khalil. Khalil signed a 1998 fatwa of Osama bin Laden advocating the killing of Americans and their allies.
Ironically, supporters say, it was Khan's offer to help the FBI ferret out terror suspects in Lodi that landed him in trouble.
According to Shujah Khan, federal agents went to Mohammad Adil Khan's home last Saturday evening asking about the Hayats, who they said had a possible link to Al-Qaida. Khan and another member of the clergy, Shabbir Ahmed, 42, went with the FBI to Sacramento voluntarily.
"Then he never came home," Shujah Khan said. "They held him on immigration violations."
|Two in Lodi accused of al-Qaida links Raids stun close-knit Pakistani community|
|Emily Bazar, Christina Jewett and Stephen Magagnini Bee Staff W|
Several years ago, Imam Muhammed Adil Khan of the Lodi mosque signed a "Declaration of Peace" with a rabbi and a Christian minister. The declaration condemned terrorism by religious fanatics of all faiths. Over the weekend, Khan - known to local Muslim leaders as an honorable man who often reached out to other faiths - reportedly was caught in an FBI sweep that has struck fear into many of Lodi's 2,500 Pakistani Americans. At the center of the investigation, according to federal officials, are Hamid Hayat, a young man who worked at a local cherry-packing company, and his father, Umer Hayat, who drives an ice cream truck in Lodi. Father and son appeared Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Sacramento and are being held on federal charges.
Hamid Hayat, 22, is accused in a federal criminal complaint of training in an al-Qaida camp in Pakistan to learn "how to kill Americans" and then lying to FBI agents about it. His father, 47, is accused of lying about both the son's involvement and helping finance the camp. Over the weekend, two imams from the Lodi mosque, Adil Khan and Shabbir Ahmed, were detained on federal immigration violations, a source told The Bee. On Tuesday, more than a dozen FBI agents raided the mosque and searched the homes of those two men and the Hayats. Meanwhile, about a dozen Pakistani Americans, most of them youths, said they had been questioned by FBI agents over the past few days. Whether the two men from the mosque are connected to the charges against the Hayats is unknown. Taj Khan, a Pakistani community leader in Lodi, said he has seen Umer Hayat at the mosque, which has more than 500 members. Taj Khan, no relation to Adil Khan, said he knew the imams as "decent, honest, sincere people who worked together with Jews and Christians." He added that Adil Khan was working to establish a private elementary school open to all races.
Pakistani Americans have forged a strong and close-knit community in Lodi, a farming town of 62,000 in San Joaquin County. Taj Khan said people have been trying to piece together the story. "Everybody is kind of afraid," he said. "Nobody believes or understands what's going on - we are in awe." Pakistanis began settling in Lodi nearly a century ago, Taj Khan said, adding that many are blue-collar workers with deep roots in America. "The Muslim community in Lodi supports any efforts to find people who are trying to hurt us or destroy the United States," he said. "People have been living here for 80 to 90 years, and we've always cooperated with local law enforcement authorities and will continue to do so." Some of those questioned by FBI agents say their civil rights have been violated. Zafar Mohammad Khan, 19, said he is Hamid Hayat's cousin and was at a local grocery store Monday with Hayat's younger brother and an uncle when four FBI agents began questioning them. "These guys were following us everywhere," Zafar Khan said. He said he refused to answer the agents' questions. But he told The Bee that the FBI sweep "was all because of a stupid phone call someone made against the Hayat family. Hamid told me someone called the FBI to make up a story because they have something against him." Zafar Khan added that the Hayats went to the FBI voluntarily. Umer Hayat's longtime neighbor, Les Kolb, said the father, also known as Mike, held Muslim meetings at his home and was always cordial. In more than 10 years, Kolb said, "There was never a problem."
Both Hayats - who are U.S. citizens - made frequent trips to Pakistan, according to friends and relatives. Umer Hayat, who has been in the United States 25 years, was described as a humorous fellow who drives an ice cream van. Even more shocking was the news that the two imams - both candidates for the mosque's leadership - had been detained. "They're in America just because they're poor," said Sayed Mohsin, 32, a freelance photographer who watched FBI officials searching one of the imam's homes. "They're trying to have a better life. The last thing they would ever do is something illegal or bad." Mohsin said the biggest concern is that Pakistani Americans in Lodi are afraid to speak out for their rights. "Everyone's afraid. They think if they say something, the government will take them away and put them in a camp."
Lodi attorney Randy Rosa, who has been friends with both imams for years, said: "The thought that either one of these gentlemen would be a threat to America seems inconceivable to me. They are loyal, decent, dignified citizens of this town." Rosa, who helped organize an interfaith project called "Celebration of Abraham," said that while America does have legitimate security concerns, if federal authorities have arrested the religious leaders, "they'd better have pretty doggone substantial evidence." Rosa's comments were echoed by several community leaders, including Dr. Hamza El-Nakhal of the Islamic Center in Davis. "Adil (Khan) is a very good guy. He's been in the ommunity for a long, long time," El-Nakhal said. "There's no way for him to be al-Qaida."
Basim Elkarra, executive director of the Sacramento Valley chapter of CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations), said Khan was one of several local Muslim leaders who previously met with the FBI to discuss security issues. "They've got nothing on those guys," Elkarra said. "This has happened before - if they don't like them, they'll get them on immigration violations. We will fight to make sure that everyone's civil liberties are upheld."
* * * Emily Bazar can be reached at (916) 321-1016 or ebazar@ sacbee.com. Staff writers Carrie Peyton Dahlberg and Elizabeth Hume contributed to this report.
KEY FIGURES Hamid Hayat, 22 * Born September 1982 in San Joaquin County. * Accused in federal criminal complaint of training at al-Qaida camp in Pakistan and then lying to FBI agents about it.
Umer Hayat, 47 * Father of Hamid Hayat. * Charged in complaint with lying about his son's al-Qaida involvement and about his own financing of the terrorist camp.
Muhammed Adil Khan * Imam at the Lodi Muslim Mosque; working to open a religious school in Lodi to teach Muslims. * Being held on immigration violation.
Shabbir Ahmed * Working with Khan to open religious school. * Being held on immigration violation.
Sacramento Bee / Mitchell Brooks Locator map of Lodi Muslin Mosque and suspect's apartment Two arrested Two Lodi men with suspected al-Qaida ties live in an eastside neighborhood near the Lodi Muslim Mosque.
|June 9, 2005|
Terrorism Probe Shakes Lodi and Its Pakistani Community
By Lee Romney Times Staff WriterSat Jun 11, 7:55 AM ET
LODI, Calif. Syed C. Shah arrived in this San Joaquin Valley wine hub from Peshawar, Pakistan nearly five decades ago, a farmworker following the immigrant trail. He picked apples, grapes, cherries "everything that grew."
"It was all German people here," Shah, now 70, recalled. But Lodi, he soon decided, would be his permanent home.
In the years since, Shah has obtained visas for enough family members to fill 20 households. He co-founded Lodi's only mosque, a pale yellow former Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall of clapboard and stucco near a city park on the southeast side of town.
Shah also saw relations with Lodi's "white Americans" mature over the years like the zinfandel this town is known for. It has been a largely harmonious coexistence, he and others said, punctuated by occasional low-grade hostility. But the community peace was shattered by this week's widening FBI terrorism probe.
Two residents have been arrested and three detained on allegations ranging from lying to federal officials to immigration violations. One of the five allegedly admitted attending Al Qaeda training camps in Pakistan that taught participants "how to kill Americans," authorities said.
Whether the investigation leads to convictions remains to be seen. But the Lodi arrests have prompted radio talk show rants and other unsubstantiated reports that paint the town as an Al Qaeda "stronghold." They have brought an onslaught of media attention, riled ethnic relations and prompted fears of hate crimes.
Mostly, the probe has drawn attention to a community of Pakistani Muslims that local leaders estimate at 2,000, among the largest in California. It happens to be lodged in the heart of a conservative town of 62,000 that calls itself the "Grape American Dream" and once boasted of having a church on every corner.
"The Muslims of Lodi have been living here for the past nearly 100 years," community leader Taj Khan, 62, said. "We are not going away
. We are going to learn from this."
Like Shah, early arrivals came in search of farm work or other labor, settling as well in nearby Sacramento and Stockton. Malik Ahmad, 40, arrived from Lahore, Pakistan, at age 9, but his grandfather had already opened the door, arriving in 1922 to work on the railroad.
Early immigrants found a niche in a segregated world. As more arrived without work papers, they had difficulty finding jobs. Shah stepped in to help, became a farm labor contractor a middleman providing labor to the region's growers and purchased several motels.
By 1978, he and several others bought the squat Jehovah's Witness hall and transformed it. No longer would Lodi's Muslim's have to travel to Sacramento for Friday prayers or fulfill their daily religious obligations from homes and fields.
As immigration law softened, new arrivals streamed in, family members sponsoring family members. Some found work as truck drivers, welders, packers in the local canneries. They purchased gas stations and fast-food franchises. Many hail from the Attock district in northeast Pakistan's Punjab state.
"The Muslim community brought food to the table and took care of their families," said Khan, an engineer who immigrated on a professional visa.
But their chosen home presented an image of itself that was homogenous and didn't seem to include them or its growing Latino population.
"Lodi is historically a strong conservative God-fearing church-attending community," said Larry Hanson, a city councilman and former police chief who arrived in Lodi in 1970.
Hanson's first awareness of the growing Pakistani Muslim community came in 1995, when three high school kids vandalized the mosque, breaking windows, tossing lighted flares inside and defacing the building with swastikas.
"All of a sudden I had 10 members of the Muslim community in my office, very concerned," Hanson recalled. "They were trying to show the [broader] community they were peace-loving, law-abiding citizens. They were hoping they weren't going to be targeted."
What developed was a respectful relationship with Lodi's small police force that remains to this day. Then, in 1998, there was a cross burning, and the ritual was repeated. This time, Hanson and others created the Breakthrough Project to foster mutual understanding.
The greatest test, however, came on Sept. 11, 2001.
Merchants in downtown Lodi hauled out American flags, and they remain to this day. Dinner mints at the Lodi Brewing Co. come wrapped in flags. They adorn the windows of the House of Clocks on School Street and cover the rear wall in Ollie's Bar.
The atmosphere after the attacks?
"Look at the flag," bartender George Gladius said. "That tells it all. That's how it was."
Tensions flared. After a few Muslim high school boys drove through town waving the flag of an Arab nation, Hanson said, a false rumor spread that many had poured into the street, "clapping and cheering." Someone tossed eggs at Pak India Spices.
Still, taunts never turned to violence, said the store's owner, Mohammad Shoaib, a 54-year-old immigrant from Attock who arrived in Lodi three decades ago. In time, they dissipated.
Among those working to mend relations was Muhammad Adil Khan, then the imam of the Lodi Muslim Mosque and among the men now held on immigration violations as part of the probe. "He spent a lot of time trying to bring the community to the mosque and get the people together with the Jewish community and Christian community," said Gary Nelson, a Stockton attorney representing Muhammad Adil Khan in a civil matter that stemmed from a community rift.
Joining Muhammad Adil Khan in the effort was Taj Khan. Along with a Lodi Methodist minister, a Stockton rabbi and others, they drafted a "declaration of peace."
"We acknowledge that fanatics and extremists have, throughout history, committed acts of terror and inhumanity against us all," said their statement, signed in June 2002. "Together, we repudiate these acts and declare them to be contrary to our Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths."
The conflict would not come from outside the faith, however, but from within.
At the urging of Muhammad Adil Khan, mosque members lent money and raised more to purchase land on the outskirts of Lodi for a community center and school. Muhammad Adil Khan and others eventually placed the name Farooqia Islamic Center on the deed, court records show. Leadership at the Lodi Muslim Mosque opposed the move, alleging in a lawsuit that they were owed $187,000.
The dispute became so heated, shopkeeper Mohammad Shoaib and others said, that the mosque president threatened to turn Muhammad Adil Khan in to federal officials. The president, also named Mohammad Shoaib, denies that he involved the FBI. However, the lawsuit filed by the mosque against the Farooqia Islamic Center in March states that Muhammad Adil Khan's temporary visa "is believed to be expired."
Against this backdrop came this week's arrests and detainments. Muhammad Adil Khan; his son, Muhammad Hassan Adil, 19; and Muslim leader Shabbir Ahmed are being held for alleged immigration violations. Hamid Hayat, 22, is charged with lying to federal officials about his participation in a Pakistani camp where he allegedly was trained to kill Americans. His father, 47-year-old Umer Hayat, has also been charged with lying to federal officials about his knowledge of his son's participation.
Attorney Brian Chavez-Ochoa, hired as a spokesman for Lodi's Muslims, said, "The father attended the mosque occasionally, but nobody really knows him or the son well. They were more on the fringe."
As FBI investigators have swept Lodi in recent days to question Muslims, finger-pointing between community factions has intensified.
Taj Khan says the dispute was ideological: New mosque leadership has been closed-minded and more orthodox, while Farooqia proponents have advocated more interfaith dialogue and a community center where women, forbidden to enter the mosque, could gather.
Others say it is about money and control. Shah called Muhammad Adil Khan a selfish man who was more interested in business than religion. The FBI, meanwhile, is investigating the broader Farooqia movement for militant ties to Pakistan.
Most Muslims here, however, deny that ties to terrorist training camps exist. "Nobody believes in this community that there's any connection," said Safdar Afzal, 31, a welder and forklift driver who came to Lodi at age 11 from Attock and began picking cherries for Shah.
Regardless, the probe has brought two Lodis face to face. Although police officials report no hate crimes, there has been plenty of name-calling. As shopkeeper Mohammad Shoaib stood near his store talking to a reporter this week, a woman walked by and loudly sniffed: "Must be Al Qaeda."
Afzal took several days off work to avoid being approached there by FBI agents. Even after Sept. 11, he said, he and others felt comfortable walking the streets in their religious dress. Now, they worry they will be ostracized.
As patrons at Ollie's played dice Thursday and sang along with Credence Clearwater Revival's "Lodi," Taj Khan and Basim Elkarra, executive director of the Sacramento Valley chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, fielded calls from worried parents. As young men were taken in for questioning, they scrambled to find lawyers.
Long-timers like Shah, however, are not worried.
"This will pass," he said. "We've seen it before."
Times staff writer Rone Tempest contributed to this report from Sacramento