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Ore. Islamic Leader Pleads Innocent

September 10, 2002

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ An Islamic religious leader arrested at an airport by federal agents pleaded innocent Monday to charges of document fraud.

During the arraignment, a federal prosecutor said explosives residue was detected on two pieces of luggage belonging to Sheik Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye.

Kariye, 41, has not been charged with counts related to the residue. But assistant U.S. attorney Charles Gorder cited the tests on the luggage in arguing for Kariye’s continued detention. Gorder refused to comment further after the hearing.

Kariye is charged with unlawful use of a Social Security number and unlawful possession of a U.S. government document. He was arrested Sunday at Portland International Airport by an anti-terrorism task force comprised of agents from several federal agencies and local police.

U.S. District Judge Donald Ashmanskas ordered Kariye held until Tuesday, when the court will resume a hearing to determine whether to release Kariye pending trial.

Kariye, a U.S. citizen who was born in Somalia, is accused of using false information _ including a changed name _ while applying for and receiving three different Social Security cards between 1983 and 1995. The federal indictment also alleges Kariye used an altered birth date in a 1998 asylum application.

His attorney, Philip Lewis, said it is common for Islamic people to have multiple names, and that variations of Kariye’s name on document applications were not necessarily fraudulent.

Lewis said he didn’t know what to make of claims that Kariye’s luggage had explosives residue on it but that it would be premature to associate it with terrorism.

``They might talk differently and dress differently and have some very different customs, but they come here because it’s a land of opportunity,″ Lewis said. ``People just aren’t here to raise havoc and do harm.″

Kariye was bound for Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with his four children and his brother. According to the prosecutor, Kariye had told his ex-wife he was planning to leave the country permanently.

Lewis said Kariye was going to Dubai to take a teaching job and took his children to immerse them in Arabic culture.

Kariye serves as an imam, or prayer leader, at the Islamic Center of Portland-Masjed As-Saber, his attorney said.

Talal Abdulkarim, a spokesman for the mosque, described Kariye as a highly respected and devout member of Portland’s Muslim community. About 100 members of the Islamic community crowded into the courtroom Monday to show support for Kariye.

Gorder said Monday that Kariye hadn’t filed tax returns for several years. But ``several thousand dollars″ were found in Kariye’s bags, and he had traveled in 1999 and 2000 to Dubai, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and Qatar, the prosecutor said.

Lewis said his client traveled to make religious pilgrimages and to speak in his role as imam.

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