Immigrants to return East

By Gene Johnson

Associated Press

SEATTLE — Four Iraqi immigrants arrested last week on federal charges of falsely obtaining commercial driver’s licenses are expected to be returned to Pennsylvania within 10 days, a lawyer for one of the defendants said Wednesday.

Three have been released pending their appearance in Pennsylvania, but one man — Hussain Sudani, 33, of Everett — remained in custody after a judge said not enough was known about him.

The three released on personal recognizance are Haider Al Tamimi, 28, also of Everett, and Mustafa Al-Aboody and Ali Al-Gazawi, both 29 and from Seattle.

At a hearing Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Monica Benton said she was convinced Sudani posed a risk of fleeing and of being "a danger to the community."

Sudani has not given a statement, she said. She added that a pretrial report about him contained "inflammatory" statements.

Benton sealed the report at the request of Sudani’s lawyer, Allen Bentley. Bentley refused to discuss the report, but said Sudani would plead innocent when returned to Pennsylvania.

The four were among 20 Middle Eastern men arrested across the country on warrants charging them with obtaining the commercial licenses from a corrupt examiner in Pittsburgh between July 1999 and February 2000. Most of the licenses included endorsements allowing the men to transport hazardous materials.

Only the men from Washington state were indicted Wednesday in Pittsburgh. None of the men has been linked to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. They were arrested amid concerns about possible terrorist attacks involving chemical or biological weapons.

Bentley described Sudani as "unsophisticated" and said "a number of young men in the Iraqi community" obtained the licenses. He said there was "no criminal intent" on Sudani’s part.

The four were not immediately extradited to Pennsylvania, because charges in arrest warrants on file in Seattle did not match new charges in Wednesday’s indictment.

Initially, the men were arrested on charges of conspiring to obtain commercial driver’s licenses allowing them to transport hazardous materials.

In Pittsburgh, the grand jury dropped the reference to conspiracy, changing the charges to aiding, abetting, inducing and procuring the production of the licenses.

Bentley said the men are expected to be extradited within 10 days.

Al-Aboody’s lawyers filed a motion Wednesday arguing against his return to Pennsylvania. The motion said that, contrary to implications in an affidavit by investigators, Al-Aboody never paid a bribe to obtain his Pennsylvania license.

Instead, they say, Al-Aboody paid only a $70 regulatory fee. He asked the license examiner whether he needed to take any tests, and the examiner told him no, the lawyers say.

According to an investigators’ affidavit, a middleman helped drivers obtain commercial licenses by paying kickbacks to an examiner.

But Al-Aboody obtained his license by himself and did not know or contact the middleman, said Amanda Lee, one of Al-Aboody’s attorneys.

Furthermore, when Al-Aboody came to Washington state and learned that his Pennsylvania license was invalid here, he contacted the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to find out why, she said. Then he went through all procedures and tests required for a commercial Washington license.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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