A Sacramento federal grand jury indicted a Lodi father and son Thursday on charges they lied about their connection to terrorist activities, including allegations the son attended an al-Qaida training camp in Pakistan.
Hamid Hayat, 22, was charged in the indictment with two counts of making a false statement to FBI agents. His father, Umer Hayat, 47, was charged with a single count of making a false statement to the FBI.
Attorneys for the Hayats have maintained that the statements were coerced. They said that if the FBI had any evidence of terrorist activity, the charges would have been more serious.
Earlier Thursday, a coalition of Muslim civil rights groups and other organizations announced they would file complaints with the FBI about "intimidating tactics" agents used during their investigation.
The tactics include denying medical treatment to a girl at the Hayats' home, using threats of arrest or deportation and denying access to legal representation, said Basim Elkarra of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, also filed a request for the FBI's records related to the investigation.
Along with the Hayats, three Pakistanis from Lodi - Muhammed Adil Khan, 47, his son, Mohammad Hassan Adil, 19, and Shabbir Ahmed, 42 - have been arrested. They are being held on alleged immigration violations.
The indictment against the Hayats says Hamid Hayat was lying when he denied to agents June 3 "that he was not involved in any way with any type of terrorist organization."
He told the agents he never attended a terrorist or jihadist training camp in Pakistan, "when, in truth and in fact, as he then well knew, he had attended one or more jihadist terrorist training camps in Pakistan," the indictment says.
A second count alleges Hamid Hayat was lying June 4 when he told agents he "never received any training directed toward a jihad against the United States, and that he never received any weapons training at a jihadist camp."
The third count alleges Umer Hayat was lying June 4 when he told agents he had "no firsthand knowledge of terrorist training camps in Pakistan that would prepare people to fight for jihad, and that his son, Hamid Hayat, did not attend any terrorist or jihadist training camps."
The Hayats are scheduled to be arraigned at 2 p.m. Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter A. Nowinski in Sacramento.
The maximum penalty for lying to a federal agent is five years, but three years can be added if the false statement involves terrorist activities.
The series of arrests started after Hamid Hayat was detained May 29 during a trip from Pakistan to the United States. His name was on a "no-fly" list. He subsequently failed a voluntary lie detector test, then told federal agents he spent six months in a Pakistani training camp run by al-Qaida, according to a criminal complaint.
His father also was questioned, and first denied knowledge of his son's activities, then later told agents he sent $100 a month to his son, the complaint said.
"If the FBI had any credible evidence that Umer Hayat actually visited terrorist training camps in Pakistan, and that his son actually attended one or more jihadist training camps, such evidence would have been presented to the grand jury and terrorist-related charges would have been returned in the indictment," said Johnny Griffin III, the father's attorney.
Griffin, a former state and federal prosecutor, said investigators have backed off on some of their initial suspicions about the Hayats, referring to a draft of the criminal complaint. The draft alleged the Hayats were targeting hospitals and supermarkets.
"When challenged on those allegations, the government conceded that there was no evidence of any plan," he said.
Hamid Hayat's attorney said her client, an American-born citizen, and his father do not understand why they are under suspicion.
Despite an ongoing investigation and a search of the Hayat home, federal authorities don't have evidence to produce more serious charges, the attorneys said.
"They were not able to gather any evidence to charge them with anything more. But it's disconcerting that they are continuing to make the allegations," said Wazhma Mojaddidi, an El Dorado Hills attorney representing Hamid Hayat.
The Hayats are being held in Sacramento County jail after a judge denied bail, but Mojaddidi said she probably would challenge the ruling because bail typically is set for a charge of lying to federal agents.
The civil rights groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Sacramento Valley, said they would be filing complaints about investigation tactics and a request for investigation records under the Freedom of Information Act.
The request for information about the investigation is essential to monitor for civil rights violations, said an ACLU attorney.
"This must be done in the way that respects people's rights," said Mark Schlosberg of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.
FBI agents have swarmed Lodi since the arrests, continuing to investigate the charges, but critics have said agents are casting an indiscriminately wide net over the Pakistani and Muslim community.
One of the eight complaints to be lodged with the FBI involves an 11-year-old girl who was in the Hayat home when it was searched, said Elkarra of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The girl fainted, but emergency medical workers were not immediately allowed to tend to her, he said.
A Lodi City Fire Department chief said medical personnel went to the house, but left because a private ambulance with paramedics had arrived and didn't need further help. No one from Priority One Ambulance could be reached for comment.
A spokeswoman for the FBI declined to discuss specific allegations of civil rights violations, but she said the agents conducting the investigation are trained in cultural sensitivity and civil rights issues.
"We conduct investigations with those things in mind," said Marcie Soligo, FBI special agent.
A professor of criminal procedure at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento said the civil rights allegations strike at the heart of investigation methods.
"The issue is to what extent should race (religion or ethnicity) be considered a factor," said Ruth Jones.
When a description of a certain suspect relies on those factors, they are relevant, she said.
"On the other end, you can't just pick up people of a particular race," she said. Other factors must weigh in for reasonable suspicion and probable cause to detain someone, she said.
The U.S. Patriot Act introduced new aspects to the ability of authorities to investigate, she said, but those boundaries have yet to be defined in court.
At the Lodi Muslim Mosque on Thursday, several worshippers leaving the afternoon prayer declined to comment or give their names. One said he was waiting for justice "to take its course."
Mosque President Mohammed Shoaib said he supported CAIR's defense of Pakistani Muslim American's civil liberties, but he said no one had come to him reporting harassment.
"Questioning is one thing," he said. "Harassment is another - we have to distinguish between those things."
Shoaib said attendance at the mosque was down about 25 percent the Friday after the arrests but has returned to normal.
About the writer:
- The Bee's M.S. Enkoji can be reached at (916) 321-1106 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Bee staff writer Stephen Magagnini contributed to this report.