Traveler from Saudi Arabia arrested at Detroit Metro with pressure cooker

Video of me discussing this issue on FOX 2 Detroit.

May 13, 2013

Traveler from Saudi Arabia arrested at Detroit Metro with pressure cooker

  • By Robert Snell
  • The Detroit News

Detroit — Federal agents have arrested a Saudi Arabian traveler who arrived at Detroit Metropolitan Airport with a pressure cooker, a key component used in the Boston Marathon bombings last month.

Hussain Al Khawahir appeared for a brief hearing at 1 p.m. in federal court on charges he allegedly used an altered passport and lied to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agent about the pressure cooker.

It was unclear Monday whether his arrest is terrorism related or a misunderstanding. But the prosecutor handling the case is Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel, who prosecuted the terror case against underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

“I am in the dark, too,” said Rita Chastang, his court-appointed lawyer.

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade declined comment on the particulars of the case or whether there are any links to terrorism.

“We never want to jump to conclusions and read more into a situation than is there, but we want to make sure all cases are fully investigated to protect the public,” McQuade said.

The slight-built, goateed Al Khawahir, 33, was dressed in a green Wayne County Jail uniform Monday and wearing ankle chains.

Flanked by an Arabic translator, he said nothing as Tukel asked to reschedule a detention hearing to 1 p.m. Tuesday.

That’s when a federal magistrate judge will decide whether Al Khawahir will be released on bond.

Al Khawahir arrived at the airport Saturday from Saudi Arabia, via Amsterdam, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday in federal court.

Al Khawahir was traveling with a B1/B2 visa, which lets him travel to the U.S. temporarily for business or tourism.

He told agents he was visiting his nephew, who attends the University of Toledo. During baggage inspection, officers noticed a page missing from Al Khawahir’s passport.

Al Khawahir told officers he did not know how the page was removed from the passport.

During the baggage exam, officers found a pressure cooker.

Al Khawahir said he brought the pressure cooker for his nephew because the devices are not sold in the United States, according to the complaint.

Later, he changed his story and admitted that his nephew had purchased a pressure cooker in the U.S. but it was cheap and broken.

His nephew says the case is a misunderstanding, and that his uncle was bringing him the pressure cooker so he could make lamb.

Nasser Almarzooq told the Associated Press on Monday that he’d asked his uncle to bring him the cooker.

Almarzooq says he’s concerned about his uncle and hasn’t been told anything since his Saturday arrest. Almarzooq goes to the University of Toledo and says his uncle was coming to visit him for a couple weeks.

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, urged caution.

“I hope that our government is not criminalizing people if they travel and have cooking items just because they are Muslim or come from the Muslim world,” Walid said. “I don’t think someone flying with an empty pressure cooker elevates to a level of terrorism unless the government has some other sound information.”

May Allah’s mercy be on Malcom Shabazz, grandson of Malcolm X

Malcolm Shabazz, grandson of Malcolm X, slain in Mexico

By John Newland, Staff Writer, NBC News

Malcolm Shabazz, grandson of the late civil rights activist Malcolm X, was killed in Mexico on Thursday during an apparent robbery, his family’s spiritual adviser, friends and Islamic associations said.

Shabazz, 28, had traveled to Mexico to meet with a leader of a California activist and rights group known as Rumec, according to a report in Talking Points Memo, which quoted the organization’s Juan Ruiz. The leader, Miguel Suarez, had been deported last month to Mexico by U.S. officials.

“I do know that Malcolm was involved in human rights and that he had a relationship with a gentleman named Suarez in Mexico,” said Imam Dawud Walid, an acquaintance of Shabazz and executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Michigan.

Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, a leading American figure in Islam and the imam of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem, N.Y., said the Shabazz family was “still trying to find out exactly what happened” and trying to cope with the loss.

He described the Shabazz family as “very private” and said he was respecting their request to be discreet about the death. 

“I am a spiritual adviser to the family itself,” he said. “They’re like any family would be under the circumstances. They’re in shock. They’re grieving.”

He added that details surrounding Malcom Shabazz’s death remained sketchy on Friday.

Numerous attempts to reach Mexican officials were unsuccessful. Friday was Mother’s Day in the country and most official offices were closed, including U.S. consular bureaus and the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. The State Department would say only that a U.S. citizen had been killed in Mexico City and that it was withholding further comment at the family’s request.

Shabazz had a turbulent childhood and adolescence. His mother, Qubilah Shabazz, was indicted on charges of plotting to kill the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who some suspected was involved in Malcolm X’s assassination. Qubilah Shabazz was Malcolm X’s second daughter.

In light of his mother’s legal and personal troubles, Shabazz was placed at a young age in the custody of Betty Shabazz, his grandmother and Malcolm X’s widow. On June 1, 1997, Shabazz, then 12, set a fire in his grandmother’s Yonkers, N.Y., apartment that left the woman critically injured. She died later that month from those injuries.

Shabazz pleaded guilty to setting the blaze and was sentenced to 18 months in juvenile detention for manslaughter and arson. That sentence could be re-evaluated every year until he turned 18.

He got out after four years, but two years later, aged 18, he landed in prison on a charge of attempted robbery.

”According to the records, I’m diagnosed with so many things,” Shabazz told The New York Times in an interview at the time. ”I hear voices, I hear things, I’m schizophrenic, I’m manic-depressive. I wouldn’t be sitting here this calm if those things were true.”

He added: ”I have goals. I have plans. I want people to know what’s going on with me.”

Months after his release in 2006, Shabazz was arrested again after punching a hole in the window of a doughnut shop.

Walid said the Malcolm Shabazz he knew was a young man struggling with the pressure of being the grandson of a famous civil rights warrior.

“I had spoken with him in the past pertaining to the struggles that he had and some of the mistakes that he made in the past as a youth,” Walid said. “He spoke of the pressure and the scrutiny that he was under coming from being part of the Shabazz family. It’s a lot for a young man to handle — also, a lot to live up to. There are a lot of people who expected him to be the reflection of his grandfather, and that’s a heavy burden to bear.”

He also said that even though he knew of Shabazz’s past criminal troubles, he did not see a dark side in the man.

“He had a very mild disposition and was a person who smiled constantly,” Walid said. “That’s my interactions with him.”

Abdur-Rashid said Shabazz was “a good young man, 28, still trying to figure out a lot of things.”

“He was definitely a leader,” Abdur-Rashid added. “I think his struggle was how to find a way out of his past. … Other young people responded to his natural leadership. But that’s what he had been doing over the past couple of years. He made pilgrimage, he was reading, he was writing, he was talking to groups of young people. He was really right at the beginning I think of forging a very positive path of his own.”

NBC News’ Becky Bratu contributed to this report.

Concert promoter sues Justice Department, demands removal from ‘No-Fly List’

Concert promoter sues Justice Department, demands removal from ‘No-Fly List’
By Ali Harb
Thursday, 05.09.2013, 07:02pm
In a press conference held on May 8, Attorney Nabih Ayad, in coordination with the Arab-American Civil Rights League (ACRL), announced that a lawsuit was filed against the FBI, the US Department of Justice and the Terrorist Screening Center, on behalf of Saeb Mokdad, a Lebanese-American concert promoter who has been placed on the government’s No-Fly List.
As reported by the Arab American News last week, Mokdad was initially prevented from boarding a plane, from Paris to Detroit last September. At that time, he consulted with the American Embassy and was cleared to return to the United States. However, since his return to Detroit, Mokdad has not been able to travel back to Lebanon and remains on the No-Fly List.
Attorney Nabih Ayad (left) with Saeb Mokdad.

Ayad states that over 500,000 people are on the No-Fly List and are usually not aware of this until they check in at an airport.

“We hear this over and over again. Arab Americans show their ticket at the counter in the airport, and law enforcement agents tell them, ‘sorry, you cannot board,'” He said. “They don’t tell them why they cannot board, and they don’t provide them with any explanation.”
Ayad explained that the Justice Department is violating a Fifth Amendment right by placing people on the No-Fly List, as travel is considered a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution. He described Mokdad as a “prisoner in his own country,” because of his inability to leave the United States.
Ayad added that Mokdad has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the local FBI who have been cooperative and did not know why he was prevented from traveling.
Dawud Walid, Executive Director of the of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Michigan, who was also in attendance at the press conference, said that Arab and Muslim Americans constitute a great and disproportionate percentage of the people on the No-Fly List.