…with the story of the two lying Saudi men who boarded a school bus in Florida. And it is not racist to say so.
Just joy riders?
***scroll for updates… BAIL FOR SAUDIS REVOKED***
From Tampa Bay 10:
Two men from Saudi Arabia were arrested today after they boarded a public school bus taking students to Wharton High School, the sheriff’s office reported.
Mana Saleh Almanajam, 23, and Shaker Mohsen Alsidran, 20, both of Tampa, were charged with trespassing on school grounds as unlawful riders on a school bus.
Deputies say the two boarded the bus at a regular bus stop at Fletcher Avenue and 42nd street. Deputies said the bus driver and the students saw them and became concerned by their presence. The driver notified her supervisors who, in turn, called authorities.
A sheriff’s deputy met then at Wharton High school and charged with them with trespassing.
The two men “initially told deputies they were from Morocco, but later admitted to being from Saudi Arabia,” the sheriff’s office said. “They told authorities they are enrolled at the English Language Institute at the University of South Florida. The defendants gave several versions of the reason they took a school bus to a high school, among those being they wanted to enroll in easier English language classes.”
Investigators say the two arrived in the United States about six months ago and are required to be enrolled at the English Language Institute.
A sheriff’s spokesman say they are registered students at the university.
Local, state and federal agents searched the residences of the two men and found nothing of concern.
Both men were taken to the Orient Road Jail.
Almanajam and Alsidran lied to Florida sheriff’s officials. What else have they lied about? The State Department, JTTF, and DHS better be taking a close look at their student visa applications.
“Both defendants gave several versions of the reason they took a school bus to a high school,” said Hillsborough County sheriff’s spokesman J.D. Callaway.
“They said they wanted to go to Wharton to look around, and then they said they wanted to go there to have some fun, and then they said they wanted to enroll in the English classes there,” Callaway said.
“We’re not sure if this was a situation of them just being new to this country, or if they were confused or what it was,” Callaway said. “We were unsure as to exactly what the final reason was, but it did cause great concern for the students on the bus and for us. One of the guys was wearing shorts with a black trench coat.”
While on the bus, the men laughed and spoke in Arabic, Callaway said.
Ahmed Bedier, Tampa director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said the men likely meant no harm and that because “they were from Saudi Arabia, that escalated the situation.”
He blamed the incident on cultural differences.
“They didn’t differentiate between a school bus and public transportation,” he said.
***1pm EDT update. Bail for the Saudis has been revoked. Via TBO.com:
A judge revoked bail for two Saudi men arrested Friday for boarding a school bus and riding to Wharton High.
Initially, Mana Saleh Almanajam, 23, and Shaker Mohsen Alsidran, 20, were held in Orient Road Jail on bails of $250 each on misdemeanor trespassing charges. Circuit Judge Monica Sierra decided to hold them at a court appearance Saturday so investigators could dig deeper into their pasts.
A friend of the two University of South Florida students tried to post their bail Friday night, said Ahmed Bedier, Tampa director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, but a jail clerk told the friend that they couldn’t be released because they were under an immigration hold until a hearing Saturday morning.
At the hearing, Sierra agreed with a prosecutor that she needed to know more about them before she could feel comfortable releasing them.
The prosecutor said neither man carried identification when they were arrested at Wharton High School, and authorities haven’t had an opportunity to gather background information beyond a check of state records.
Almanajam and Alsidran appeared confused by the proceedings and smiled nervously as they stood behind a public defender’s table.
Bond review hearing is Tuesday.
Hat tip: Duke and Sean O.
I would ask why our Saudi student admittance policies seem to be as lax as ever, but I already know the answer.
“The Saudis are our friends.”
The UA will enroll about 100 new Saudi Arabian students this summer, which could signal the reverse of a post-Sept. 11 trend of having fewer international students in the United States, especially those from the Middle East.
The students are part of a new large-scale scholarship program by the Saudi government, which will send about 6,000 students to American universities this year after just 1,442 Saudi students had visas to study in the United States in 2004.
About 80 of the students are already at the UA, enrolled in English-immersion classes before they start their academic programs in the fall. More are expected by the start of next semester as they secure visas…
…The program grew out of an agreement in April by President Bush and then-Crown Prince Abdullah, with the more open policy part of larger efforts at improving relations between the two nations.
From the 9/11 report:
By the summer of 2000, three of the four Hamburg cell members had arrived on the East Coast of the United States and had begun pilot training. In early 2001, a fourth future hijacker pilot, Hani Hanjour, journeyed to Arizona with another operative, Nawaf al Hazmi, and conducted his refresher pilot training there. A number of al Qaeda operatives had spent time in Arizona during the 1980s and early 1990s.
There are 59 references to Arizona in the 9/11 Commission Report. But it tells only a fragment of the story when it comes to terrorists in the Grand Canyon State. A joint FBI-CIA analysis titled Arizona: Long Range Nexus for Islamic Extremists remains classified. Its existence was revealed for the first time when the 9/11 Commission released its final report this summer. But the long-standing link between Islamic terrorists and the Arizona desert has been in the public record for years–and it’s centered dead on Tucson, and in particular, the Islamic Center of Tucson (ICT).
What are we doing?
In case you missed it, go read Nina Shea’s piece in the WaPo on Saudi hate textbooks in the kingdom’s public schools.
Cori Dauber weighs in.