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3 hearings set amid Lodi terror probe

Immigration hearings were set for three members of the Lodi Pakistani community as federal authorities continued Thursday to piece together a wide-ranging case they believe will show that an al-Qaida terrorist cell flourished in the Central Valley city.

The three have been arrested on alleged administrative violations of their visas and are being held without bond, according to Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Muhammed Adil Khan, 47, a Muslim religious leader, is scheduled to appear in immigration court July 1 in San Francisco. His son, Mohammad Hassan Adil, 19, is scheduled to appear July 29 in the same court. The third, Shabbir Ahmed, 42, who worked with Khan to open a religious school in Lodi, is scheduled for June 24.

The two older men have visas that stipulate they are in the United States for religious work, and the son is classified as a relative of a religious worker, according to their attorneys.

Another father and son, Umer Hayat, 47, and Hamid Hayat, 22, both U.S. citizens, have been arrested on charges of lying to federal investigators about the son's alleged activities in an al-Qaida training camp in Pakistan. The son eventually told federal agents that he spent six months ending in 2004 at the camp where he trained to use weapons and explosives and studied anti-American ideology, according to a federal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.

A terrorism expert said Thursday that if the allegations prove true, the confession is significant because it delivers a dangerous post-9/11 picture of a terrorist network that is adapting to survive.

The revelations Hamid Hayat made to federal investigators could mean he is one of the few to claim to have trained in a terrorist camp after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said Brian Jenkins of the Rand Corp. in Santa Monica.

"It underscores the fact that there is still a functioning center, command and control, some entity abroad, albeit loosely organized, that is able to communicate and continues to recruit," said Jenkins, who initiated the think tank's terrorist research program in 1972.

The elder Hayat, an ice cream peddler, is accused of lying to federal investigators about knowingly financing his son's training, according to the complaint.

Family members have said the father is nothing more than a hard-working merchant, and his son is a newlywed immersed in two cultures and perplexed about his arrest.

A customs official said Thursday that the two had been caught leaving the country with a large amount of cash in 2003.

Records show Hamid and Umer Hayat failed to declare excess cash when they were flying out of the country, a Customs and Border Patrol spokeswoman said.

Together the two were carrying $28,093, said Christiana Halsey, the spokeswoman. Customs requires travelers entering or leaving the country to declare more than $10,000 in cash. Agents seized $27,000.

Two federal sources said the Hayats departed from Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., on April 19, 2003, the day identified in the criminal complaint that Hamid Hayat left for a two-year stay in Pakistan.

Family members said the money was to buy a house.

The son is scheduled to appear in federal court today for a bail hearing. The father was denied bail in a hearing earlier this week.

No terrorist-related charges have been filed against any of the men while federal investigators continue to examine evidence seized from the men's homes.

Khan, the religious leader, is being held at the Santa Clara County jail. The other four men are at Sacramento County jail. All of them declined to be interviewed Thursday.

The Hayats, Adil - identified in jail records as Hassan Khan - and Ahmed have been segregated from other inmates and are escorted by officers if they are moved, said Sgt. R.L. Davis, a Sacramento County sheriff's spokesman.

"They are high-risk because of the status they've gotten through the media," Davis said. "So, we have to take special precautions to make sure they are not harmed in our facility."

The investigation began when Hamid Hayat was diverted on a flight to San Francisco on May 29 because he was on a "no fly" list, according to the criminal complaint. He was returning after a two-year stay in Pakistan, during which family members said he got married.

FBI agents allowed Hamid Hayat to return to the United States so he could undergo more questioning. After he failed a voluntary lie detector test about his al-Qaida connection, he detailed his training, which included target practice with images of President Bush, according to the criminal complaint.

His father also was questioned and was arrested after he denied knowing about his son's activities. He then told investigators that he paid for his son's airline ticket and sent him $100 a month while he was at the camp, the complaint said.

Hayat family members said the elder Hayat agreed to set up separate meetings with the two religious leaders, Ahmed and Khan, and wear a wire. They were taken into custody Saturday after the meetings, but federal investigators have declined to say what the conversations revealed.

Khan's son was arrested Wednesday on the alleged immigration violations. Immigration officials declined to give details about his arrest.

In Lodi, city leaders and law enforcement met Thursday with Pakistani community members who are concerned about a backlash. Lodi Mayor John Beckman said Muslim community members have reported taunting incidents.

"The city of Lodi will do everything in its power to ensure that an appropriate balance between legitimate national security interests of America and legitimate concerns of the loyal citizens of Lodi exists," he said.

The president of the Lodi mosque, Mohammed Shoaib, flanking Beckman at an afternoon news conference, pleaded for tolerance.

"If one person who does something wrong, we should not be judged for it," he said. "I urge all my brothers, all of us in the Muslim community that we should stand together, not apart from ourselves, but together, and that our civil liberties should not be violated."

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  • The Bee's M.S. Enkoji can be reached at (916) 321-1106 or Bee staff writer Cameron Jahn and David Whitney of The Bee Washington Bureau contributed to this report.