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Charges dropped against one suspect in Detroit

DETROIT, Michigan (CNN) -- Authorities have dropped criminal charges against one of three Arab men arrested last month in connection with the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Farouk Ali-Haimoud, 21, had been scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing Wednesday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Paul Komives on charges of identity fraud, misuse of visas and conspiracy to commit those violations.

Instead, Komives signed an order dismissing the charges against Ali-Haimoud without prejudice, meaning the same charges could be brought again later based on new evidence.

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"The government is requesting additional time to investigate to see if there's evidence to charge this person and whether or not it is in the public interest to do so," said Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office.

The order stated the government's need to investigate and acquire more evidence in the case against Ali-Haimoud could not be successfully accomplished before the preliminary hearing.

Defense lawyer Kevin Ernst told CNN his client was arrested only because of hysteria following the September 11 attacks and because he is of Arab descent.

"They could indict an onion right now if it had an Arabic name," said Ernst.

Ernst said Ali-Haimoud came to the United States legally from Algiers two years ago and went from living a completely anonymous lifestyle to having his picture splashed across newspapers and television screens nationwide.

"I don't think he's any longer a focus of the investigation," said Ernst, who claimed the government never had any concrete evidence against his client and violated his civil rights.

"You're supposed to investigate the evidence against a person before you arrest and detain them," he said.

Ali-Haimoud was arrested along with Ahmed Hannan, 33, and Karim Koubriti, 23, at a Detroit apartment on September 17, 2001. Federal agents had gone to the apartment in search of another man, Nabil Al-Marabh, identified as a potential suspect or associate of the 19 hijackers responsible for America's recent terrorist attacks.

Al-Marabh was later arrested outside Chicago and is in federal custody.

Court appearance Thursday

According to FBI affidavits, agents found employee identification badges for two of the men for LSG Skychefs, on-board caterer at Detroit Metropolitan Airport in suburban Romulus. They also found what appeared to be diagrams of an airport flight line, and a day planner which contained Arabic notations relating to the American base in Turkey and an airport in Jordan.

The affidavit also stated that Koubriti allowed federal agents to search his home and that he informed the agents of false documents located in the apartment.

Those documents included a passport, Social Security card and a U.S. visa, all in the name of Michael Saisa.

Koubriti told agents the items belonged to a man who previously lived with him, who he called Jalai.

Jalai -- also known as Youssef Hmimssa and Patrick J. Vuillaume -- faces a preliminary hearing in federal court Thursday.

Attorneys for Koubriti and Hannan also will be in court Thursday, appealing Judge Komives September 28 order to detain the men because they are considered a flight risk.

They are also charged with identity fraud, misuse of visas and Social Security fraud. If convicted, Koubriti and Hannan face up to 25 years in prison.

Ernst said it is difficult to represent Arab-Americans in cases such as these right now because of public sentiment. And the clients aren't the only ones under scrutiny.

"People told me I should be ashamed of myself for representing these people."


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