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Controversial lawyer will defend Kariye

FBI lab tests do not find residue of TNT on sheik's luggage

The federal case against Sheik Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye took several turns over the weekend when FBI lab tests did not find explosive residue in his luggage and a controversial critic of the war on terrorism announced he was taking over the defense.

Kariye was arrested on Social Security fraud charges by the Portland FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force when he and his family tried to fly out of Portland International Airport on Sept. 8. During his arraignment, federal prosecutors revealed that an airport security machine had detected traces of TNT in two of his bags.

U.S. District Judge Donald Ashmanskas cited the traces as one reason to keep Kariye behind bars. But now Kariye's Portland lawyer, Phillip Lewis, says he should be released.

'That reason to continue holding him has been eliminated,' Lewis said Monday morning.

But it's not clear whether Lewis can file the request for a new detention hearing. On Saturday night, New York lawyer Stanley Cohen said he had been asked to take over the case. Lewis said he had not contacted Cohen and is unsure who is currently representing Kariye.

Kariye is the spiritual leader of the Islamic Center of Portland, or Masjed As-Saber. Speaking before about 200 members of the Southwest Portland mosque Saturday night, Cohen said he joined the case because 'a decision was made to bring in somebody with experience with a witch hunt,' according to an Associated Press reporter who attended the gathering.

Cohen is a former partner of William Kunstler, the late left-wing attorney known for defending controversial political clients. Although the Portland Tribune was unable to contact Cohen for comment, he has repeatedly accused the government of violating the rights of Muslims following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Cohen has represented several Muslim leaders in recent years, including Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, a businessman arrested in 1995 and accused of raising funds for the Hamas terrorist organization. Cohen successfully prevented Marzook from being extradited to Israel.

Because Cohen was born into a Jewish family, he has been personally attacked for representing such clients. The militant Jewish Defense Organization threatened him in a recorded phone message, giving out his home address and saying, 'Stanley Cohen must be driven out of New York.'

According to published and broadcast accounts, the FBI is investigating possible al-Qaida cells in eight major American cities, including Portland. Although the FBI will not discuss the investigation, it appears to involve members of Masjed As-Saber.

Contact Jim Redden at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .