KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Protesters accused the Malaysian government Friday of caving in to U.S. pressure by speedily deporting a suspected American Islamic militant to the United States.
Ahmed Ibrahim Bilal was flown Thursday from Malaysia, where he had lived since January and was enrolled at an Islamic university, to Guam. He is expected to arrive in Portland, Oregon, in coming days to face charges of conspiring to fight with al-Qaida against U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Hundreds of demonstrators who marched after Muslim prayers Friday, demanding that the United States and Britain not attack Iraq, took up Bilal as a secondary cause.
"Why must the government bow to American pressure and deport Ahmed Ibrahim?" Ahmad Sabu, an official of the opposition Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party, said in a speech. "We must stand up to the United States. They are the biggest terrorists."
One banner read: "Don't send Ahmed Ibrahim home to evil America."
Some demonstrators urged a boycott of McDonald's and KFC, two U.S.-based fast food outlets with a high profile in Malaysia, as well as of British products.
The U.S. government revoked Bilal's passport, making him an illegal immigrant, and Malaysia deported him on immigration violations rather than holding lengthy extradition proceedings.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Thursday that he was "not aware of any pressure" and that the case was dealt with according to Malaysian laws. The U.S. government thanked Malaysia for resolving the case.
Bilal's lawyer, Darshan Singh, filed an application for a judicial declaration that the deportation was unlawful and void and for an order to the government to pressure Washington to send Bilal back to Malaysia so full extradition proceedings could be carried out.
A High Court judge in the northern city of Penang scheduled a hearing for the application Saturday. There was no indication when a ruling would be issued.
Government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that sending Bilal home was made easier because he had posed no security threat in Malaysia and did not have connections with local militants.
Malaysia has jailed more than 60 suspected alleged members of an al-Qaida-linked group plotting to bomb the U.S. Embassy and other Western targets in neighboring Singapore.
Malaysia turned an American terror suspect over to United States custody Thursday and he was immediately flown out of the country, the US embassy here said.
Ahmed Ibrahim Bilal, 24, "has been removed from Malaysia", a spokesman told AFP, declining to give any details. "We are extremely grateful to the government of Malaysia for their assistance."
Bilal was named by the US authorities last Friday as one of two wanted men after the arrest of four others in swoops on an alleged terrorist cell in the US states of Oregon and Michigan.
The American-born US citizen of Saudi ancestry was arrested Sunday in Malaysia, where he had been studying at the International Islamic University since early this year, after his father urged him to give himself up.
Malaysia's High Court Wednesday refused an application to stay his deportation while he applied for political asylum.
Washington had revoked Bilal's passport, and Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told a news conference Thursday: "If a person has got no documents he has to leave the country."
Asked whether Malaysia had acted hastily because it was worried about being seen as a haven for terrorists, Mahathir said: "We go according to the law, not according to rumors and public opinion."
Malaysia, which has a Muslim majority population, has been angered by some western media reports describing it as a "launch pad" or "planning hub" for the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Those reports were based on US intelligence that members of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, including two men who were later involved in the attacks, met in this Southeast Asian nation early in 2000.
Government officials and local media were quick to point out that this was no indictment of Malaysia as the attackers not only also met within the United States itself, but trained there as pilots.
A former army officer allegedly linked to the al-Qaeda visits, Yazid Sufaat, is one of 63 suspected militants detained in Malaysia in swoops that began before September last year.
Malaysia has also protested new travel restrictions imposed by the United States and Canada which it says link the country with terrorists, and Mahathir has recently criticized what he calls "anti-Muslim hysteria".
The US embassy here was quick to congratulate Malaysia on Bilal's arrest, calling it "yet another sign of Malaysia's continuous and strong support of the international war against terrorism."
Mahathir, who has been in power for 21 years, said Thursday he was "not aware" of any pressure brought to bear on Malaysia by the United States.
"We are against militancy anywhere and if we have to cooperate with other countries we will," he said.
Bilal's lawyer, Darshan Singh, said in a fax to AFP Thursday that he had information late Wednesday evening that his client "was tortured and was under intense FBI agents interrogation."
The US embassy dismissed the allegation as impossible.
"No US official had any contact with Mr Bilal until he was turned over to officials this morning", the embassy spokesman told AFP.
Charges against Bilal and the others say that after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, they acquired firearms and took part in weapons training in preparation for joining Taliban and al-Qaeda troops battling US forces in Afghanistan.
Mahathir said in response to a suggestion that the allegations against Bilal were vague: "We are not talking about the offences, we are talking about him not having documents."
Wednesday, October 9, 2002
|Ahmed Ibrahim Bilal (undated handout photo)|
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- A Malaysian court has rejected an American citizen's fight against extradition to the United States on charges of conspiring to assist al Qaeda and the Taliban, clearing the way for the man to be deported within days.
Ahmed Ibrahim Bilal was taken into custody Tuesday, and was granted a court stay later that day, enabling him to appeal the extradition on Wednesday.
"There is no right of appeal and any further stay that I grant will amount to preventing the Attorney-General of Immigration from carrying out his function, which I feel I am not empowered to do," High Court Judge Augustine Paul said on Wednesday.
Bilal's lawyer, Darshan Singh, said he plans to file an immediate appeal to Malaysia's highest court, The Associated Press news agency reported.
Bilal -- an American-born U.S. citizen -- is one of six U.S. residents from the Portland, Oregon area of the United States indicted last week, charged with conspiracy to provide material support and services to terrorists and wage war against the United States.
"If politics come into play, it will be very difficult, but on legal grounds he had a strong case," Darshan told The Associated Press prior to Wednesday's hearing.
"Denial of legal counsel itself is sufficient grounds for his release," commented Darshan, who had been unable to meet with his client.
Bilal was not present at the hearing, with local media reports saying he was being held for questioning at an undisclosed location.
Bilal had hoped to seek political asylum and permanent residency in Malaysia, his lawyer told AP, as he believed he would not be given a fair trial in the U.S. given the high level of publicity the case had attracted.
Malaysian officials charged Bilal with an immigration violation because the United States had revoked his passport.
Bilal turned himself in after seeing reports of the arrests last Friday of his alleged co-conspirators on CNN, police sources said.
Of the six suspects, three have been arrested in Oregon and have been identified as Patrice Lumumba Ford, Jeffrey Leon Battle and October Martinique Lewis.
Another -- Bilal's brother, Muhammad Ibrahim Bilal -- was arrested in Michigan, while the sixth suspect, Habis Abdulla Al-Saoub, is overseas and remains at large.
Al-Saoub is Jordanian, and was living in the United States legally. The others are American-born U.S. citizens. All six used to live in Portland.
After the September 11 attacks, Ashcroft said, the men "acquired various firearms and engaged in weapons training and physical training in preparation to fight a jihad."
They then left the country and attempted to get into Afghanistan, where they planned to join al Qaeda and the Taliban in "fighting against the United States and allied soldiers," Ashcroft said.
Lewis stayed home and transferred money to support the five men, he added.
They had difficulty getting into Afghanistan, and three of them -- Battle, Ford, and Muhammad Bilal -- returned to the United States in late 2001 and early 2002, the attorney general said.
Law enforcement sources told CNN the six are not connected to James Ujaama, who is in custody on charges of trying to create an al Qaeda training camp in Oregon in the United States. If convicted, the six could face life in prison.
Oct 08, 2002