Hanafi Muslim spokesman Abdul Aziz was released from jail yesterday after his bond was reduced and his family posted $5,000 in cash with the court.
U.S. Magistrate Henry Kennedy Jr., who reduced the bond, without stating any specific reasons for doing so, said Aziz could not leave the District without the court's permission, must give up his passport and avoid any future arrest pending further developments on his charge of owning two firearms after being convicted of felonies.
Aziz's attorney, Harry T. Alexander, had argued for the bond reduction on the basis of his client's community ties and the heavy police presence around Aziz's home - Hanafi Muslim headquarters at 7700 16th St. NW - where he could be watched while on bond.
Aziz was arrested last week at about the time that his father-in-law, Hanafi leader Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, was taken into custody because of alleged telephone threats Khaalis had made.
Khaalis was the alleged leader of 11 other gunmen who seized 134 hostages in the takeover of three Washington buildings early in March. He had originally been released on personal bond, but that was revoked when federal investigators learned of the alleged telephone threats through a court-ordered wiretap.
Aziz, who did not participate in the takeovers but who acted as the Hanafis' outside spokesman during the ensuling sieges, would owe the federal government $30,000 in total bond if he fails to show up for court appearances. His next scheduled court appearance is Friday on the gun charges.
Attorney Alexander argued yesterday that the charges against Aziz amounted to "entrapment" by the law enforcement officials, since he was allowed to purchase firearms when a check of court records would have shown him inelligible to buy a gun because of his past convictions.
The failure of the lawmen to check the records amounted to "complicity" in Aziz's alleged crime, Alexander added.
Assistant U.S. Attorney E. Lawrence Barcella Jr. discounted Alexander's theory, however, and said Aziz himself lied on the forms he filled out when he purchased the firearms.Aziz failed on those forms to disclose that he had been convicted of two felonies, or that he had been committed for examination to a mental institution, Barcella added.
The law enforcement officers discovered Aziz's past record when they subsequently checked the applications, Barcella indicated.
Magistrate Kennedy originally had ordered Aziz held on $75,000 bond, under which he would have been required to post $7,500 in cash. Aziz's family posted the $5,000 bond yesterday within two hours after the amount was reduced. There was no indication where the money had come from.
The release of Aziz followed by a day three nighttime raids of Hanafi Muslim houses in suburban Maryland in which large quantities of firearms, ammunition and machetes were confiscated by agents of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau of the Treasury Department.
The raids were said to be the largest conducted in the Washington area by that agency in years, and included agents brought in from New York City, Philadelphia, Richmond and Baltimore, according to persons familiar with the execution of the search warrants involved.
Police officials notified persons at the Hanafi Muslim headquarters here in advance that the raids would be taking place, in an attempt to avert any violence. There were no serious incidents in the three raids at 1016 Merrimac Dr. Langley Park, 10713 Tenbrook Dr. Silver Spring, and 9404 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring.
Also seized was a boxful of anti-Semitic literature, including material for children, according to persons familiar with the raids.
Hanafi Muslim spokeswoman criticized the police's activities during the raids, saying they mistreated women and children in the house and abused religious materials there. The police denied the charges, but said they were cursed by women in two of the homes.