Chairman of Yemeni Expats Union in U.S. accused of undercover work [Archives:2006/988/Front Page]
Mohammed bin Sallam
SANA'A, Oct. 7 ) The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) office in Bakersfield, Calif., last week accused Ameen Al-Rawhani, head of the Yemeni Expatriates Union, of working undercover after it arrested him last month with other two Yemeni expatriates.
Quoting the Yemeni Consul in California, Mansour Al-Muliki, the Middle East newspaper indicated that Al-Rawhani has dual nationality, that he remains under arrest until $1.5 million bail is paid to release him and that his friends are attempting to gather the required sum.
Two of Al-Rawhani's relatives confirmed that the FBI arrested him after finding a telephone address book with Mohammed Al-Moayyad's phone number. According to the newspaper, Al-Moayyad is a Yemeni religious scholar convicted of terrorism and sentenced to 70 years' imprisonment.
Al-Rawhani's nephew Nashwan noted that FBI confiscated phone books, including one containing an old number for Al-Moayyad, letters and travel documents belonging to him and his uncle. However, Nashwan says his uncle had no connection with Al-Moayyad.
In his view, Hifzallah Al-Rawhani declares that what the FBI considers spy documents are merely poems, personal letters and procedural files sent to the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Yemeni Embassy media official Mohammed Al-Basha refused to comment on the incident and the same for Al-Rawhani's lawyer.
The FBI office previously announced that it officially had accused three Yemeni Americans of spying for unidentified parties in Yemen. Two were arrested while the third escaped to Yemen.
The three are convicted of possessing secret documents, stolen military equipment and bulletproof vests, intending to send them to Yemen prior to their arrest.
Al-Rawhani's relatives maintain that he bought two bulletproof vests as personal gifts from public stores. Al-Muliki admitted that the items mentioned in the indictment were sent to specific individuals but not to the Yemeni government.
Bakersfield resident Al-Rawhani, 56, received military secrets from a secret agent and sent them via fax and mail between June 2005 and August 2006 to an unknown party in Yemen, according to the federal plaintiff.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, which killed more than 2,500 people, U.S. authorities imposed strict measures upon residents and visitors of Arab origin, including official Arab delegations, some of whom refused to be investigated and returned home.
Several American citizens of Arab origin were killed at the hands of American gangs following the Sept. 11 attacks, wherein the 19 attackers were Arabs affiliated with Al-Qaeda, which is listed atop the world's terrorist organizations. The most recent instance involved Ziyad Nasser, of Yemeni origin, who was killed by a gang in August at his Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket.
Commenting on the issue, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi confirmed that Al-Rawhani was arrested a month ago and that the FBI accuses him of sending bulletproof vests and night vision goggles to an unidentified party in Yemen. However, his trial hasn't begun yet. He further declared that Al-Muliki will follow up the issue, although the U.S. considers Al-Rawhani an American citizen.