FREED MACKINAC BRIDGE SUSPECTS SEEK APOLOGY
DEARBORN HEIGHTS -- A demand for an apology was made Wednesday on behalf of three Arab-American men from Texas, arrested and accused last month in Caro of a terrorist plot to attack the Mackinac Bridge.
Charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit fraud by trafficking counterfeit goods were dismissed Tuesday after a hearing in federal court in Bay City. Terror charges had been dismissed in Tuscola County on Aug. 16.
"We are grateful all charges have been dropped," said their lawyer, Nabih Ayad of Dearborn Heights. "But these men were the victims of racial profiling and there will forever be a stigma attached to them. Some people will continue to define them by what the government did."
Ayad held up a newspaper front page with a photo of 23-year-old Louai Othman being led into a courtroom, handcuffed and wearing the orange jumpsuit of a prisoner. The trio was jailed for 12 days before being released on bond. The cell phones they bought and a laptop computer have yet to be returned by authorities.
Ayad said they're considering a civil lawsuit.
The trio answered questions Wednesday morning at a press conference hosted at their lawyer's office. They expected to catch a midday flight from Metro Airport back home to Dallas, Texas.
"It seemed appropriate to hold this conference here because it is the center of the largest Arabic population in the United States, a community that is calling for this sort of thing to stop," said Ayad.
They had traveled through 20 states, buying almost 1,000 pre-programmed cellular telephones from Wal-Mart stores. They had hoped to make as much as $10 per phone when reselling them on the street back in Texas.
The men said Wednesday that they had been stopped and questioned in Wisconsin, and were told by authorities there that they were doing nothing illegal.
"We were making money and traveling and having a great time," said Adham Othman, 18. "That's the American way, right?
They were arrested and charged by Tuscola County authorities under state anti-terrorism laws. The federal charges were filed against them on the same day that the local charges were dropped.
As for the reason they took photos of the Mackinac Bridge?
"I'm from Texas. I'd never seen a bridge that big before," Louai Othman said. "They (prosecutors) didn't say anything about the other pictures we took, the ones of the ducks and geese and trees. Michigan is a very pretty state."
All three said they hope to return to school when they get home.