A federal magistrate reversed course and set bail Tuesday for two mosque leaders caught in an FBI anti-terrorism sting, saying the case against the men is not as strong as it once looked.
David R. Homer set bail at $250,000 each for Yassin Muhiddin Aref and Mohammed Mosharref Hossain on charges of promoting terrorism.
Earlier this month, Homer refused to set bail, saying the men were a threat to the community and might flee. But he reconsidered after prosecutors acknowledged an apparent misinterpretation in a crucial document.
The indictment said a notebook found in a terrorist camp in Iraq last summer included an Arabic entry referring to Aref as "commander." But FBI translators later said the phrase in Kurdish meant "brother."
"Evidence in this case appears less strong than it did," the magistrate said Tuesday.
U.S. Attorney Glenn Suddaby has said that regardless of the translation, the case against the men stands.
Aref, 34, and Hossain, 49, were caught in an FBI sting built around a fictitious assassination plot against a Pakistani diplomat. An FBI informant told the suspects he was an arms dealer and asked Hossain to launder money from the sale of a shoulder-fired missile that would be used to kill the diplomat in New York City, prosecutors said.
The men could get 70 years in prison if convicted.
Aref, an Iraqi Kurd, is the imam of an Albany mosque. Hossain, who is from Bangladesh, is a co-founder of the mosque.