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Report: detained Saudi says he’s no terrorist

March 16, 1997

TORONTO (AP) _ Canada has detained a Saudi man for alleged links to a bomb blast in Saudi Arabia last year that killed 19 U.S. soldiers.

But Fahad Shehri told The Toronto Star he wasn’t even in Saudi Arabia when the bomb went off in June at a military complex in eastern Saudi Arabia near Dhahran, injuring about 400 people.

``They’re saying I’m a terrorist when I have nothing to do with all of this,″ said Shehri, 21, who is being held in Ottawa.

Shehri, who applied for refugee status when he arrived at the Ottawa airport on Dec. 6, said he doesn’t believe in violence and fears for his life if he is sent back.

He was detained by immigration officials three days after he arrived.

Canadian officials claim Shehri told them he belonged to a Saudi opposition group linked to the bombing. They say he denied involvement in the bombing but admitted selling guns for the group.

But Shehri denied that. ``My work was relief work and I didn’t deal with arms whatsoever,″ he told the Star.

``I was active in Saudi Arabia _ sending faxes, giving out brochures; I was advocating democracy,″ he said Saturday.

Shehri said he was associated with the Committee for the Defense of Legitimate Rights, which opposes the ruling regime in Saudi Arabia.

The London-based committee wants to make Saudi Arabia even more strictly Islamic. It claims to have underground cells in Saudi Arabia, but does not advocate violence.

Four Saudi suspects arrested in connection with the bombings cited the committee as being a major influence.

Saudi officials say they are not seeking Shehri.

He is ``not wanted in any case or crime,″ Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Ahmed bin Abdul-Aziz told a London-based newspaper.

A hearing to determine Shehri’s status was set for March 26.

Shehri has refused to speak with U.S. authorities. ``I’m in Canada,″ he said. ``I’ll co-operate only with Canadian authorities.″

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