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Lawyer: Man facing charges sought refuge from Saddam

By Brian Bakst

Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- An Iraqi man charged with lying to federal officials about his travels first came to the United States as a refugee in 1996 to escape Saddam Hussein, his lawyer said Friday before a judge ordered him held pending trial.

The disclosures by public defender Manny Atwal were the most detailed yet about Ali Mohammed Abboud Almosaleh, who earlier in the week pleaded not guilty to three federal charges of lying to U.S. immigration agents when he passed through Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on July 7.

Atwal asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan to release Almosaleh and let him return to Aurora, Colo., to live with a brother, who is also a refugee with permanent residency status.

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"We can't lose sight of what he's actually charged with," Atwal said in court. In an interview later, she added, "I can't recall anyone charged with this crime actually being held in custody. ... He's from Iraq, he's a man. Let's just put it together. Ever since 9/11, anyone who looks suspicious and fits the profile, it's not looking good for them."

Almosaleh didn't speak in court Friday.

Boylan sided with a federal prosecutor who deemed Almosaleh a flight risk and threat to public safety.

"The nature of the charges in this case are serious," said Assistant U.S. Attorney David Genrich.

Almosaleh, 40, was arrested shortly after getting off a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam.

A federal indictment alleges Almosaleh falsely said he had been out of the United States for one month when he actually had been out for about five months, and that he told agents the only country he had visited was Syria when he actually had been to Iraq.

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