NY: Freedom Lifts Hopes of Suspects in Sting



Two Muslim men ensnared in an FBI counterterrorism sting professed their
innocence and love for America on Wednesday as they emerged from Rensselaer
County Jail after spending 20 days in custody.

Yassin M. Aref, 34, an Iraqi native, and Mohammed M. Hossain, 49, who is
from Bangladesh, smiled and appeared overcome with relief.

The immigrants said they missed their families and believe they will be
cleared of federal charges alleging they helped launder money from the sale
of a shoulder-fired missile that was to be used in a fictitious terror plot.

They said language barriers with a Pakistani immigrant who worked as an FBI
informant, misleading or incomplete accounts of their secretly taped
conversations and overzealous counterterrorism agents had pulled them into
an FBI vortex that leaves their futures in doubt. Both men are charged in a
19-count indictment with money laundering, providing material support to a
foreign terrorist organization, importing firearms without a license and
conspiracy charges related to the yearlong sting.

"Now I have even more respect for the United States of America," Hossain
said, appearing to hold back tears. "I am a true American. I love this
country."

The pair had spent 20 days in jail but were released on $250,000 bond each
and with electronic monitoring bracelets strapped to their ankles as they
left the brick jailhouse near the Hudson River just before sunset.

They were greeted by more than two dozen supporters from their Central
Avenue mosque. A limousine carrying their wives and children arrived
minutes later and the two men hugged their friends, including several
members of their Albany mosque who had put up their homes as collateral for
their release.

As a condition of their release, U.S. Magistrate Judge David R. Homer also
required that each man have four people co-sign their bonds as security.

During a short hearing Wednesday afternoon, eight men -- seven of them
immigrants -- lined up in Homer's courtroom at the federal courthouse in
Albany and pledged their earnings and assets should either defendant try to
flee. They included a pizza shop owner, a therapist, a salesman, two
engineers, a furniture store worker and a real estate agent.

"I came to this country for my freedom," said Aref, who is the imam, or
spiritual leader, of the Central Avenue mosque. "In the jail, the first
time they arrest me, I thought I chose the wrong place for my country and
my children. ... I don't have anybody in my family (who) is working for any
terrorist group...

 


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