Chile police find more traces of explosive in terrorism probe of Pakistani, seek othersBy Federico Quilodran, AP
Friday, May 14, 2010
Chile police seek associates of embassy detainee
SANTIAGO, Chile — A court was to decide Friday whether to present formal charges or free a Pakistani man who was arrested after traces of an explosives material were detected on his documents and a cell phone while he was visiting the U.S. Embassy.
Police found more traces of the material on clothes seized from Mohammed Saif ur Rehman Khan’s home, Chile’s state television reported Thursday night.
Investigators also were looking for five more people known to Khan for questioning, the report said.
National prosecutor Sabas Chahuan said that “I think there is a crime.”
But Khan’s public defenders maintain that Khan is innocent and that authorities have not shown sufficient evidence to prove that he is or was involved in terrorist acts.
The court agreed to the defense’s request to move up a hearing to Friday from Sunday, public defender Gabriel Carrion told reporters.
Khan, 28, is being held under Chile’s anti-terrorism laws while being investigated for alleged explosives violations. He was summoned to the U.S. Embassy on Monday because his U.S. visa had been revoked, and he was arrested after security equipment detected traces of explosives on his phone and papers.
Khan’s public defender, Francisco Geisse, said evidence thus far “doesn’t show the existence of a crime.”
State TV said on the evening news that crime lab personnel had identified the material as Tetryl, a compound used to increase the explosive power of TNT. Police in white suits also took away Khan’s computer earlier this week.
Police spent hours Thursday searching the apartment of an Egyptian man who was friendly with Khan.
Officers dressed head-to-toe in white anti-contamination suits carried out a computer, compact discs, an agenda and a cell phone, police said. The Egyptian man who reportedly befriended Khan at a mosque in the Chilean capital of Santiago was not seen by reporters, and police released no information about him.
Khan came to Chile in January to study Spanish and the hotel industry after staying with his brother, a doctoral student at Michigan State University, for a month last year, according to the Pakistani Embassy.
A website apparently set up by Khan’s brother to proclaim his innocence called him an intelligent, educated man who has never been accused of any wrongdoing. After Chile’s massive earthquake in February, it said, he volunteered as a relief worker.
The website links to a brief video by Pakistani news channel Samaa in which Khan describes receiving a phone call from someone named “Bill” summoning him to the U.S. Embassy for a review of his documents.
“I think there is someone behind me who is doing this,” he said, speaking in English. “It is very unusual that he call me in Chile to come to the U.S. Embassy for the correction of name. I don’t know what that is. But everything was fine. After five minutes he said, ‘Oh, everything is OK.’ But sometime afterwards, he took my educational documents and locked me up in a room.”
Khan’s parents, in a video on the website of Chile’s La Tercera newspaper, described him as an amateur but talented musician who learned songs quickly and loved his guitar more than his own life.
“He hated terrorism and terrorists, all those who plant bombs,” said his father, Mehmood Ahmad Rehman Khan. “He believed that people can change with words, and it’s not necessary to kill to get someone to change.”
He speculated that any explosives detected on Khan must have come from someone with powder on their hands touching his clothes.
The U.S. ambassador to Chile, Paul Simon, has said there is no indication that the embassy was the target of an attack.
Khan was detained nine days after a Pakistan-born U.S. citizen allegedly tried to set off a car bomb in New York’s Times Square after receiving training from the Taliban in Pakistan. But by then, the U.S. had already decided to revoke Khan’s visa, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
“This issue predates the Times Square incident and we are not aware of a connection between the two,” he said.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the U.S. government will cooperate fully with the Chilean investigation of Khan.
“There were solid grounds for apprehending him and he will be charged under Chilean laws,” Crowley said.
The Pakistani Embassy said Khan denied possessing explosive materials or having links to terrorist organizations.
“He would have to be a very bad terrorist to enter the embassy with traces of explosive material, knowing that the embassy is a dangerous place where he would face serious accusations if he were caught,” said Pakistani Ambassador Burhanul Islam, who promised legal and consular support to Khan.
Tags: Asia, Chile, Embassies, Latin America And Caribbean, New York, New York City, North America, Pakistan, Santiago, South America, South Asia, Terrorism, United States