Yemeni Americans learn toBe careful who you know [Archives:2004/714/Opinion]

February 23 2004

By Shaker Lashuel

Nowadays, Yemeni-Americans like other Americans who are Arabs and Muslims are scrutinizing their associations.
People will hesitate to add your number to their personal phone directory if they do not know enough about you.
Everyone wants to continue to live a normal life uninterrupted by FBI investigations and questioning. But, for some, who are now presumed to have had “suspicious” associations, their past will haunt them.

Gas station owner
A Yemeni-American gas station owner was found guilty Wednesday of lying to the FBI about his connections to Sheik Abdullah Sa'atar.
Numan Maflahi faces up to five years in prison for telling an FBI agent that he only casually knew Sheik Sa'atar.
According to the FBI, Sheik Sa'atar toured New York mosques in 1999 to raise money for radical Muslim groups. Yemeni-Americans in Brooklyn remember the Sheik visits.

Soliciting help
They also remember that the Sheik was soliciting help for social programs that were sponsored by the Yemeni Reform Party, an opposition party in Yemen.
Maflahi's case is the first indictment against a Yemeni-American based on association. He was found guilty of lying to the FBI about the nature of his association with Sheik Sa'atar but the prosecutors did not prove that he was funneling money to radical Muslim groups as they alleged.
Maflahi faces up to five years because he “interfered with a larger terror investigation,” according to federal prosecutor Kelly Moore.

Government informant?
But Maflahi's attorney, Hassen Ibn Abdellah disagreed and told jurors his client was being prosecuted because he refused to become a government informant. Maflahi's sentence is set for May.
For Yemeni-Americans today, they can only hope that their paths in the past did not cross with those the FBI is looking into.