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U.S. Muslim's Case Poses Test for New Administration

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Hamdan, 42, chafed at the surveillance, so conspicuous that the imam at the Hawthorne mosque asked him to keep his distance. But confidants said his decision to return to the Middle East was equally grounded in unease with Hawthorne's schools, where gangs and drugs remain problems.

In August 2006, Hamdan moved the family to Dubai. At the Los Angeles airport, he was questioned for so long that he missed his flight. When he returned in 2007 for a visit, the FBI surveillance was continuous, associates said.

Things were not going smoothly abroad, either. In early 2008, while waiting for a flight in Beirut, Hamdan was arrested and interrogated for four days by Lebanese authorities. Hamden said a lawyer the family later hired to examine the court file said his detention was at the request of "outside influences."

Last July, FBI agents passed a request to Hamdan to report to the embassy in Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, then flew there to question him. "What did they want?" his brother recalled asking Hamdan, who he said replied: " 'Whatever they ask at the airport, same thing. You can't imagine how much they know about us. If you ever forget something in your life, a certain spot, call them. They'll tell you.' "

Six weeks later, the security police took him away, then returned to carry away all things electronic.

In Los Angeles, Hamdan's banker, Dan Suie, of the Asian Pacific Revolving Loan Fund, said an FBI agent delivered a subpoena in early January. The bureau wanted paperwork on loans for Hamdan's business, records the banker said contained nothing suspicious.

"I deal with people who, you know, shake their hands and count your fingers," Suie said. "But [Hamdan] was a very decent person, a very nice guy."

The mosque has mounted a campaign demanding Hamdan's return to the United States to face whatever charges he is suspected of.


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