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One US al-Qaida Suspect Granted Bail in NY - 2002-10-08


A U.S. Federal judge has granted bail to one U.S. citizen in New York state accused of operating an al-Qaida sleeper cell. The five other suspects will remain behind bars.

The ruling, which denied bail to five of six defendants charged with aiding a terrorist organization, concludes the hearing that began last month after FBI agents in Lackawanna, New York raided the alleged al-Qaida sleeper cell.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Schroeder granted defendant Sahim Alwan a $600,000 bond, saying he disavowed any continued activity in al-Qaida. Mr. Alwan, who is apparently cooperating with investigators, admitted to participating in an al-Qaida training camp. But according to his attorney, he disagreed with the extremists and faked an injury to go home.

Mr. Alwan will have to meet strict condition to stay out of jail during his trial. He must remain at home except for work or medical emergencies. He will be monitored by satellite, must give up his passport, his property will be searched and he can only use the telephone to communicate with his attorney.

However, in denying bail to five remaining defendants the judge agreed with prosecutors, who argued that although there is no prove of a pending attack, there is enough evidence to suggest the suspects are dangerous and a flight risk.

Prosecutors say the six men, who are U.S. citizens of Yemeni descent, went to Pakistan for religious education in 2001, and joined an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan, which was visited by Osama bin Laden.

This case is being closely watched to see how the government and the judicial system handle alleged terror cells of U.S. citizens.

Before his ruling, Judge Schroeder, who weighed his decision for several weeks, discussed the importance of remaining within the boundaries of the U.S. Constitution, in matters of national security.

"We can not put [September 11] 2001 out of our minds, those are the facts, that is history," he said. "But what we have to be on guard for is that we do not go overboard in our feelings of fear or even develop extreme paranoia to the point that we are willing to abandon our basic constitutional principles."

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