US suspect in London terrorism case refused bail
NEW YORK, June 2 (Reuters) An American student who became the first person extradited by Britain to the United States on terrorism charges was refused bail by a federal judge and ordered held in prison.
Syed Hashmi, 27, was studying in London when he was arrested in 2006 and last week was extradited to New York on US charges of supporting al Qaeda, including holding ponchos, raincoats and waterproof socks in his London apartment for military use by al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan.
Yesterday, US District Judge Loretta Preska ordered Hashmi, who was born in Pakistan and raised in New York, detained on the grounds he might flee to Pakistan if released.
Hashmi this week pleaded not guilty to the charges, which could bring a maximum 50 years in prison if he is convicted.
While much of the case against Hashmi occurred in Britain, under US law any American citizen suspected of supporting terrorism abroad may be charged in the United States.
During the hearing, defense lawyer Sean Maher argued the government's case against Hashmi was weak. The military gear Hashmi held in his apartment for three days belonged to his former friend turned government informant Mohammed Junaid Babar, the lawyer said.
But prosecutors told the judge the case against Hashmi, also known as ''Fahad,'' was ''extremely serious'' and that he had been a member of the Al-Muhajiroun, a defunct British-based Islamic extremist group.
Hashmi approved the storage of Babar's gear knowing Babar was passing it and money onto al Qaeda's leader of military activities in Afghanistan, Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi, prosecutors said.
Maher has described his client as a peace-loving academic who was targeted for participating in political protests against the US government.
''If the case against him is so strong, why hasn't he been charged by British authorities?'' Maher said outside the courtroom.
Babar, the main informant in the case, is cooperating with the government after pleading guilty in New York in 2004 to smuggling money and military supplies, including night vision goggles and sleeping bags, to al Qaeda.
He also testified as an informant against five Britons convicted in London in April of plotting to bomb attacks on targets such as nightclubs and trains.
REUTERS NY BST0432