PAINTBALL MUJAHIDEEN RELEASED ON BAIL
- "The men are accused of training for combat while on paintball
outings in the Virginia countryside."
PAINTBALL MUJAHIDEEN RELEASED ON BAIL BY FRUSTRATED JUDGE IN VIRGINIA
SHOW TRIAL Baltimore Sun, USA Today 3:46am Thu Jul 3 '03
4 'jihad' defendants granted bail
By Kevin Johnson
July 2, 2003
ALEXANDRIA, Va. â Four men accused of being part of a "jihad network"
were granted bail Wednesday. The move raises questions about
allegations that they were Muslim warriors preparing to fight against
U.S. allies overseas.
U.S. Magistrate T. Rawles Jones Jr. said none of the defendants pose
a threat to the community. The men are accused of training for combat
while on paintball outings in the Virginia countryside.
In the case of one defendant, Hammad Abdur-Raheem, 29, Jones referred
to a solid work history, strong family ties and military service that
he said appeared to defy the government's claims.
"The government's argument that he should be denied bond because of
concerns for community safety simply does not hold water," Jones
He ordered the men released after they met bail conditions, including
a requirement that they submit to electronic monitoring while
The decision appeared to undermine the government's terror-related
claims in a 42-count indictment unsealed last week. The court
documents allege that the defendants were among 11 people who
obtained weapons and trained to fight in Chechnya, Kashmir, the
Philippines and elsewhere.
The release order, however, was tempered Wednesday in a separate
decision by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, who revoked bail for
a fifth defendant, Masoud Ahmad Khan.
Khan, 31, had been granted bail earlier this week. The government
appealed that decision, reasserting that Khan represents a safety and
Federal prosecutors also signaled their intention Wednesday to appeal
the magistrate's release order for three of the four other
defendants. Those men, Hammad Abdur-Raheem; Randall Todd Royer, 30;
and Caliph Basha Ibn Abdur-Raheem, 29, were all ordered released
Prosecutors indicated they did not plan to appeal the release order
for Donald Thomas Surratt, 30.
Royer was visibly moved by the magistrate's decision. He buried his
head in his hands and later wiped tears from his eyes.
"This was the only decision the judge could make," said King Lyon,
the father of Hammad Abdur-Raheem. "This whole case is built on
hearsay. There is not a fact in the whole case."
Lyon and others, however, were worried that victory could turn to
defeat on appeal. "It certainly does give you pause," Royer's lawyer,
Stanley Cohen, said in reference to the revocation of Khan's release.
4 men accused of terror ties ordered released until trial
U.S. judge's ruling a blow to prosecution; 5th suspect must remain in
By Laura Sullivan
July 3, 2003
ALEXANDRIA, Va. - In a setback for the government, a federal judge
ordered yesterday that four men whom prosecutors had linked to a
violent terrorist group be released until trial - even as another
judge ruled that a fifth suspect must remain in custody.
Taken as a whole, the actions suggested a weaker case than the one
the Justice Department portrayed last week, when it unsealed an
indictment that it called a step forward in the war against
terrorism. At one point yesterday, prosecutors even agreed that one
defendant posed no threat to the community and should be released
without bail until trial.
A judge's decision to order the release of the four men to relatives -
without requiring bail - was a rebuke to the government, which last
week called its charges against the four men and seven others "a
stark reminder that terrorist organizations of various allegiances
are active in the United States."
Prosecutors charged that the 11 defendants were part of Lashkar-e-
Taiba, a State Department-designated terrorist group, and were
seeking to wage holy war in Chechnya, India, the Philippines and the
disputed Kashmir region claimed by Pakistan and India. The men, nine
of whom are U.S. citizens, were accused of stockpiling weapons and
practicing military tactics, largely in Northern Virginia.
The indictment further accused them, without specifying details, of
serving "in armed hostility" against the United States. But it gave
no indication that the men were plotting any attacks within the
Yesterday, U.S. Magistrate Judge T. Rawles Jones Jr. ruled that four
of the men - Randall Todd Royer, Donald Thomas Surratt, Hammad Abdur-
Raheem and Caliph Basha Ibn Abdur-Raheem - would pose no danger to
their communities, largely the Washington suburbs of Northern
Virginia and Maryland, and would be unlikely to flee.
"The question before the court," Jones said, "is not what has
happened in the past but whether there is a combination of conditions
of release that can assure the safety of the community ... and assure
their appearance" in court.
He ordered the men to wear monitoring devices on their ankles, to
remain in the custody of a relative and to refrain from talking with
one another, owning weapons or traveling outside the area.
The government said it would appeal Jones' ruling as it pertains to
three of the four men he ordered released until trial. But Jones
agreed to the government's request to hold all the men at least until
today, when the Justice Department intends to file an appeal with the
In an unusual move that brought an exasperated response from Jones,
prosecutors said they would not oppose Surratt's release, after
having spent three hours arguing why he and the other men should be
confined to jail.
"It would have been helpful to have known this three hours ago,"
Meanwhile, three floors above Jones' courtroom, Judge Leonie M.
Brinkema overruled Jones' decision Monday to release another
defendant, Masoud Ahmad Khan. Brinkema ordered Khan confined without
bail until trial.
She said she was inclined to agree with the government that Khan
represented a flight risk because he had traveled extensively to
Pakistan, where he has relatives. She also concluded that he was a
potential danger because items confiscated from his home in
Gaithersburg included a jihad manual and a photo of the FBI's
Nevertheless, Brinkema aggressively questioned the reliability of
their evidence about Khan.
Gordon Kromberg, a federal prosecutor, responded that six of the 11
indicted men had given statements to the FBI supporting their case
The six remaining defendants were not in court yesterday. Three are
in custody in the United States in different stages of their cases,
and three are believed to be in Saudi Arabia.
Khan's attorney, Danny C. Onorato, disputed the charges, saying the
indictment "does not indicate [Khan] caused harm to anyone or engaged
in any terrorist activity."
The government has "inflamed the court and public opinion by throwing
around the 'T' word - terrorism," Onorato said.
Brinkema, who will be handling any appeals involving the men ordered
released yesterday, said that she intends to look at each case
individually and that her ruling in Khan's case would not apply to
all of the men.
Lawyers for the four men before Jones picked apart the government's
case, cross-examining FBI witnesses and disputing prosecutors'
On the witness stand, John Wyman, an FBI agent, acknowledged that the
FBI is not able to tie Royer, a U.S. citizen and father of four, to
Lashkar-e-Taiba since its designation as a terrorist group in the
fall of 2001.
Seeming surprised by that concession, Jones looked up from his bench.
Royer, meanwhile, looked over at his co-counsel, raised his eyebrows
and shook his head.
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