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Goose Creek Terror Suspect – A Family In Despair

(TBO.Com) MONCKS CORNER, S.C. – In a jail chapel, with two renderings of the Last Supper overhead, the family of a 21-year-old University of South Florida student gathered around him Saturday. His father did most of the talking, as they delivered the bad news. â– The accusations that he and a fellow student had a pipe bomb in the trunk of their Toyota Camry as they drove near a Naval weapons station had turned into a federal indictment. Their hopes that state charges, filed by South Carolina authorities, would be dropped after a hearing this month were dashed. Instead, the two now face the likelihood they’ll be held in federal custody without bail, their attorneys said.

Youssef Megahed’s reaction was shock, and then despair, his family said. Sitting in solitary confinement, he’s terrified of the warnings FBI agents have given him and his family – that he’ll be held interminably in a military prison like Guantanamo Bay.

Adding to their anxiety was a quote in the Charleston newspaper Saturday from the local sheriff, predicting Megahed and fellow student Ahmed Mohamed soon will be moved from this jail in Berkeley County to the brig on the nearby Naval complex. The Megaheds know the brig is used to hold prisoners the president has deemed “enemy combatants.”

Worse for Megahed’s father, Samir, was the moment he was leaving and saw Mohamed talking to his own attorney. Mohamed, teary, had also just heard about the indictment.

He hugged and kissed Samir and asked him to deliver a message to his own father in Egypt: “Tell my father I am not going to meet him in this life again.”

Mohamed, 24, fears he will be imprisoned longer than his father will be alive, Samir said.

Samir stood with hands clasped, tears in his eyes, on Saturday as he related the story outside the Berkeley County Detention Center. His wife and three other children stood next to him, as they ducked out of a steady, gray rain and relived the miserable afternoon.

Mohamed, Samir said, was focused on the maximum 30 years that he faces if he’s convicted of the federal charges that are connected to, but more serious than, Megahed’s. Investigators say Mohamed tried to help terrorists by teaching and demonstrating how to use explosives. Authorities suspect the civil engineering student exchanged information over the Internet about how to miniaturize bombs.

That charge carries 20 years, in addition to the 10 years that both students face if convicted of transporting explosives. Federal authorities haven’t revealed exactly what kind of explosives were in the trunk of the car after the two were stopped for speeding on Aug. 4; a sheriff’s report described them as pipe bombs.

Federal investigators also haven’t revealed what was on the laptop they took from the car, which belonged to Mohamed.

Preliminary Hearing Unlikely

The top prosecutor for the local circuit, Scarlett Wilson, told The Post and Courier of Charleston that she plans to drop the state charges and turn the case over to federal authorities. Megahed’s attorney, Charleston lawyer Andy Savage, said nixing the state case would mean there will be no preliminary hearing, where prosecutors would have to share their evidence and be challenged by the defendants.

Facing only federal charges, they would go straight to a hearing this week in Charleston, where they would enter a plea, Savage said.

“Now we no longer have the opportunity to test the evidence, to say what was this explosive. We know it’s not traditional fireworks, but the question is: is that compound the equivalent of an M-80 or a sparkler, or something more egregious than that?” Savage said Saturday.

Also seized from the car were cell phones and GPS devices, which Megahed said the two were using to find cheap Murphy gas at the nearest Wal-Mart when they were pulled over. They were about seven miles from the Naval Weapons Station Charleston, which includes the brig.

The preliminary hearing would have been a chance for defense attorneys to press for what the cell phone and GPS showed, Savage said.

“The cell phone will show who he was talking to or who they called or who called them. This is not believability or credibility through a witness,” Savage said. “It is what it is.”

Megahed’s family was looking forward to the hearing, set for Sept. 21, as a time for a full and final airing of what was found in the car.

“They believe the GPS will either confirm what Youssef has said to the authorities and said to [the family], or it won’t,” Savage said.

The family is from Egypt but has lived in Tampa for 10 years. Samir, 60, his wife Ahlam, 54, son Yahia, 24, daughter Mariam, 18, and son Yassien, 11, had driven to Berkeley County to visit Megahed in the jail Friday.

They have a close family, and Samir says he is worried about all of them.

But it was an upbeat meeting they had with Megahed on Friday, and they talked with Savage about how they thought the state’s preliminary hearing would absolve their 21-year-old son.

They left him in an optimistic mood. That was before they heard of the indictment, just two hours later.

Father Alleges FBI Pressure

The visit Saturday, Savage said, “was awful.” Megahed’s mother tried to reassure him by putting her hand on his back and rubbing it, but the tenor of the meeting was dismal.

Samir questioned how federal authorities could press the charges when he says he and his son have been cooperative. When investigators asked Samir for access to the family home for a search, he handed them the house key. He has been interviewed by the FBI more than a dozen times, he says.

He also has been pressured by the FBI, as has Megahed, to give up information they say they don’t have.

“They want us to say what they want to hear,” Samir said, throwing his hands up, as if to show they’re empty. “They want the stories they have in mind. It’s all in their imagination.”

It’s like, Samir said, investigators want “my signature on a white paper and they can fill it.”

Agents also have called Samir to tell him his son is depressed, and that they are worried about him, Savage said. They called and told him that Friday, without mentioning the pending indictment.

FBI agents tell Megahed they’ll keep him in jail a long time or deport him to Egypt or send him to Guantanamo Bay, Samir said. “They keep trying to push him to say things.”

Samir has been in touch with the father of his son’s co-defendant. After the arrest, Mohamed’s father called Samir from his home in Egypt to exchange information, and the two realized they studied together at Cairo University in the early 1970s while earning their engineering degrees.

Samir said he had not been in touch with Mohamed’s father in 30 years, and that their acquaintance is a coincidence. Since they’ve reconnected, Mohamed’s father has depended on Samir as a connection to his own son as he waits for a resolution to the case.

Now Samir has to figure out how to relay what Mohamed told him in the jail.

“How can I tell a father, ‘You are not going to see your son again’? It’s like you sent your son to the war, and he dies there.”

September 5, 2007 - Posted by | Blogroll, Homeland security, news, personal, politics, random, religion, Terrorism, Terrorism In The U.S., Terrorism News, Uncategorized, War-On-Terror

1 Comment »

  1. Awwwww – poor little bombers failed and now the have to rot in prison. They’re getting a first little taste of what they deserve.

    Comment by jonolan | September 5, 2007 | Reply

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