The FBI has evidence that three Denver-area men from Pakistan have been trained in terrorist techniques and pose "a danger to the community," federal prosecutors said today as they sought to hold the men in jail on immigration charges.
An FBI agent told a U.S. magistrate at a bail hearing Monday that one of the defendants, Pakistani citizen Haroon Rashid, had been trained at a terrorist camp in Pakistan and wanted to take part in a jihad, or holy war, against the United States, according to wire service reports.
Rashid's attorney, Anthony Joseph of Denver, denied that, saying his client has no connection with terrorism. But U.S. Magistrate Michael Watanabe ordered that Rashid be held without bail on an immigration charge.
Two alleged associates of Rashid's, Irfan Kamran and Sajjad Nasser, also held for immigration violations, will appear in federal court here Friday to seek release on bail. In documents filed with the court, prosecutors said their release, too, will be opposed on grounds that they pose a public threat related to terrorism and that they are flight risks.
There have been no formal charges of terrorism in the case. "They're not indicted for anything related to terrorism," said Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Denver. "The evidence on terrorism came up when we asked the judge to deny bail on the immigration charge."
Authorities have used immigration charges to detain numerous suspects in the nearly 19 months since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, before laying out terrorism allegations against some when they later asked judges not to release them.
Since the attacks, the government has accused several other U.S. residents of traveling to terrorist camps for training, including three men from Lackawanna, N.Y., who recently pleaded guilty to supporting terror groups.
The Denver case came to court last week when six Denver-area residents were indicted on federal charges of harboring an illegal immigrant from Pakistan, Dorschner said. At the initial hearing, a magistrate released five of the men on bail, but ordered that Rashid be jailed pending trial.
The government immediately appealed the release of Kamran and Nasser; they, too, were jailed pending Friday's bail hearing.
The three others charged in the immigration case, Abdul Qayyum, Saima Saima and Chris Marie Warren, are free on $10,000 bail. Saima is Rashid's wife.
In the federal magistrate's court on Monday, Rashid asked to be released on bail. According to the Denver Post, his attorney, Joseph, said: "There is nothing to show he is the alleged terrorist the government is trying to paint him as being."
FBI agent Michael Castro told the magistrate that Rashid, 32, went to Pakistan shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks to attend a terrorism training camp. The agent said Rashid boasted he is a mujaheddin and was expecting to receive orders to engage in violence in the United States.
Castro said that the FBI had interviewed Rashid's boss in his former job as an airport shuttle driver. The former employer said that Rashid had expressed interest in joining a jihad against the United States. The former employer did not appear in court.
The FBI agent also referred to an unnamed pawnshop owner who told the bureau that Rashid had been shopping for a rifle with a scope equipped for night firing. The pawnshop owner said, according to the agent's statement in court, that Rashid claimed to have been part of a military unit in Afghanistan that killed thousands of American soldiers.
The agent also told the court that Rashid has been charged with hitting a 15-year-old 10th-grader in Arapahoe County in suburban Denver. He also said that Rashid had been convicted of murder in Pakistan, a conviction that was overturned on appeal.
Joseph, the defense attorney, reportedly told the court that Rashid has been in the United States for about five years, with the appropriate visa. He said the defendant had worked as an airport shuttle driver and as an auto mechanic.
Staff writer Dan Eggen in Washington contributed to this report.