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UNC Grad in Court on Alleged Hit and Run

March 6, 2006

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) _ A University of North Carolina graduate from Iran, accused of running down nine people on campus to avenge the treatment of Muslims, said at a hearing Monday that he was ``thankful for the opportunity to spread the will of Allah.″

At about the same time, UNC students held what they called an ``anti-terrorism″ rally on the Chapel Hill campus.

Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar was accused of driving a sport utility vehicle through The Pit, a popular campus gathering spot, injuring nine people Friday. None of the victims was seriously hurt.

Police Chief Derek Poarch said Taheri-azar told investigators he intentionally hit people to ``avenge the deaths of Muslims around the world.″

Taheri-azar appeared in Orange County District Court in nearby Hillsborough. He was assigned a public defender, but said after the hearing: ``The truth is my lawyer.″

Taheri-azar, 22, was charged with nine counts of attempted murder and nine counts of assault. His bail was set at $5.5 million.

Taheri-azar graduated from North Carolina in December after studying psychology and philosophy. Investigators believe he has spent most of his life in the United States, Poarch said Saturday.

The school’s chapter of the College Republicans helped organize Monday’s campus rally against terrorism.

``We don’t want terrorism here, and we’re not gonna stand for that where we live and where we go to school,″ said Kris Wampler, a student at UNC and member group.

Student Staci Griner said the incident was unsettling for UNC students.

``You feel kind of removed from the bigger attacks, like 9/11, because they’re not in your immediate town. We walk around and meet people and never think it’s one of our own,″ said Griner, 21. ``I feel like the whole world is falling apart.″

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On the Net:

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: http://www.unc.edu

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