Saying there was at least an inference that an undercover illegal cigarette sales sting was merely a “subterfuge” to question a Muslim Chico store owner about possible terrorist ties, a Butte County judge Tuesday dismissed all charges in the case.

The failure of the FBI to turn over court-ordered documents to the defense provided the basis for the dismissal action.

“Praise God and my attorneys, justice has been done,” said Bilal Abdul Yasin, the 37-year-old Palestinian-born Muslim owner of Chinca’s Market, after the case was thrown out of court Tuesday against him, his brother, Muwaiia Abdulra Yasin, 35, and a co-worker, Alberto Cabrera, 39.

Though grateful the charges were dropped, Bilal Yasin said the surrounding publicity damaged his reputation and has left him struggling to stay in business.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Bilal Yasin said, “I give the government the right to look at me more closely, but I don’t give them the right to go over the line.”

The trio were arrested in March 2005, after they allegedly purchased dozens of cartons of cigarettes at the neighborhood market on Boucher Street from an undercover agent of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control, who represented them to be stolen.

In dismissing multiple counts of attempted receiving stolen property Tuesday, the judge said testimony in the case suggested the real focus of the investigation was not about cigarettes, but the store owner’s “connection to his Palestinian homeland, his practice of the Muslim religion, and relationship with other Middle Eastern shopkeepers in Butte County.


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