Thursday, June 17, 2004

Terror suspect to get mental tests

Family says bizarre behavior is unusual for man accused in mall-bomb plot

By Carrie Spencer
The Associated Press

Nuradin Abdi
COLUMBUS - A man charged with plotting to blow up a shopping mall was almost unrecognizable to family and friends who watched his shuffling gait and distracted gaze Wednesday in a courtroom. A federal magistrate ordered psychological tests to determine if he is competent to stand trial.

After being helped to a chair before the hearing in U.S. District Court, Nuradin Abdi slammed his face to the table and kept it there for a few minutes, staring into the reflective glass. During the proceedings, he would look around, smile at no one in particular, and sometimes put his head back on the table.

Magistrate Mark Abel's ruling said Abdi's behavior in jail and his attorney's difficulties communicating with him were sufficient evidence to support the need for the evaluation. Abel sealed the portion of the court transcript where he spoke privately with attorneys on how Abdi, 32, behaved when his attorney tried to discuss the case with him in jail.

Abdi will be taken to a federal psychological evaluation center and be treated as needed, the ruling said.

In the courtroom, Abdi kicked the table, fidgeted with his wrist and ankle shackles and kept pushing his chair back from the table. Two officers would push the chair back in. Toward the end of the hearing, he started muttering.

"The government took a healthy man, and what we have here is a broken man, mentally," his lawyer, Mahir Sherif, told Abel.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dana Peters said he did not object to the evaluation, but added, "We have no evidence of any abuse of Mr. Abdi."

Authorities have accused Abdi of plotting to blow up a mall with admitted al-Qaida operative Iyman Faris, who is now imprisoned for never-acted-on plans to sabotage the Brooklyn Bridge.

Abdi, a Somali national granted asylum in the United States as a refugee, was arrested on immigration charges in November, on the busy shopping day after Thanksgiving. The indictment was unsealed Monday. The FBI said no specific mall was targeted.

Friends and relatives said afterward that they were disturbed by what they saw.

"This wasn't the Nuradin that we know," said Jad Humeidan, executive director of the Ohio office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "This was just the shell of a man."

Abdi's 17-year-old brother, Mohamed AbdiKarani, said his brother looked right at him without seeming to know him. AbdiKarani said his brother was behaving normally the last time he saw him, at an immigration hearing in Detroit in January.

Abdi's family were among 100 supporters filling the courtroom seats and lining the walls. Afterward, they joined a crowd of about 200 more outside.

One person handed out small American flags that people waved. Four held up signs, with sayings including "Nuradin is 100 percent innocent" and "Patriot Act Religious Profiling."

Abdi is charged with providing material support to al-Qaida, conspiracy and document fraud. If convicted, he could get up to 80 years in prison. The FBI can't discuss the evidence before trial, said James Turgal, Cincinnati-based FBI spokesman.

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