A 21-year-old Georgia Tech student taken into federal custody last month has been charged with giving “material support” to a terrorist organization, according to a federal indictment unsealed Thursday.
The student, Syed Haris Ahmed, a mechanical engineering major who had become increasingly religious in his Islamic faith, was arrested March 23 by the FBI.
“This is the first international terrorism charge ever filed in Georgia,” said U.S. Attorney David Nahmias shortly after unsealing the indictment “The charge against Mr. Ahmed is serious and involves national security and will be prosecuted with that in mind.”
Authorities declined to provide details about the charges but said they had investigated Ahmed for about a year.
Jack Martin, Ahmed’s court-appointed lawyer, refused to comment on the case. Ahmed’s family has rejected the suggestion that the student has been involved in terrorism.
On Wednesday, Ahmed appeared before U.S. Magistrate Joel Feldman and pleaded not guilty, prosecutors said Thursday. Ahmed was ordered to be held in custody pending trial.
Ahmed was taken into custody, his family said, apparently because authorities suspect a videotape he made of a building may have been related to terrorism.
Gregory Jones, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta office, would not say what started the investigation.
Ahmed’s family immigrated from Pakistan in 1997 and are now U.S. citizens living in Dawsonville.
Family members said agents confiscated computer hard drives and data CDs from their home last month.
Ahmed told his family that authorities found a video on the Internet and apparently traced it to him. The video was of a building and was perhaps made during a trip with friends. Ahmed’s family members said they did not know the location of the building or when the tape was made.
WAGA-TV reported that the station’s sources say the FBI believes Ahmed traveled to Pakistan last year to attend a terrorist training camp. His family acknowledged that he traveled to Pakistan, but they said he was merely attending a religious school. The report cannot be independently verified.
A second man from Roswell, Ga., was arrested in Bangladesh on Monday:
Ehsanul Islam Sadequee was arrested by Bengali authorities after at least eight months of federal investigation of him and his family, his sister, Sharmin Sadequee, said Thursday.
Federal authorities would not confirm the arrest. Authorities also refused to confirm Ahmed’s arrest before Thursday.
Sharmin Sadequee said the family had immigrated from Bangladesh and lived in Atlanta since 1988. Ehsanul Sadequee was born in Fairfax, Va., and is a U.S. citizen, although he was home schooled and attended a British school in Bangladesh from 2001 to 2004.
Federal authorities would not say what charges Ehsanul Sadequee faces or even confirm he is in custody.
Sharmin Sadequee, the sister of the man arrested in Bangladesh, said her brother was briefly detained last August at Kennedy International Airport in New York when he was flying to Bangladesh to get married.
Sharmin Sadequee said her family has been interviewed by authorities several times since.
Sadequee, who spoke to the newspaper from her home in Michigan, said her family received a call in mid-March from a young man saying he was an acquaintance of her brother and that he had been questioned four times by the FBI about him. Sharmin Sadequee knew the man only by his nickname and had met him at Al-Farooq Masjid, the mosque just north of Georgia Tech. She said the man she met resembled Syed Haris Ahmed, the Georgia Tech student, after seeing his photo on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Web site.
Sadequee called the man this week after her brother was arrested. His cellphone had been disconnected.
Sadequee said one of the family encounters with authorities was in December when U.S. immigration agents arrested her mother at the family home in Roswell on immigration violation charges. Her mother was released and the case is ongoing, Sadequee said.
Sadequee also said FBI agents came to the Roswell home in September, saying they were investigating the bankruptcy of a travel agency where their older brother, Amimul Sadequee, had purchased a ticket.
Could Islamic terrorists still be training operatives in the deep South?