The Muslim owner of a neighborhood market in Chico testified in court Tuesday that when he and two employees were arrested as part of an undercover cigarette sales sting in 2005, the FBI interrogation focused almost entirely on whether they had any terrorist ties.

Butte County Superior Court Judge Steven Howell indicated he will rule next month on a motion to dismiss the criminal charges over the FBI’s refusal to turn over to the defense information it claims it needs to prove the government discriminated against the trio based on their religion and nationality.

Bilal Yasin, 37, the owner of Chinca’s market on Boucher Street in the Chapman neighborhood, claims he was unfairly targeted because he is the only Palestinian-born Muslim store owner in Butte County.

His lawyer contends the federal government improperly used the undercover sting to search Yasin’s home and seize his computer, CD disks, Arabic language mail and some $19,000 in cash to try to uncover possible terrorist links.

The fact most of the seized property and money has since been returned to the market owner under a court order, shows that no such militant ties were found, his lawyer maintains.

Deputy district attorney Glenn Jennings argued in a written legal brief Tuesday the defense has failed to provide sufficient grounds at this point for dismissing the underlying criminal charges.


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