Uzbek refugee pleads not guilty

Fazliddin Kurbanov faces three counts of federal terrorism-related charges.

awebb@idahostatesman.com csewell@idahostatesman.comMay 18, 2013 

  • IDAHO'S FIRST POST-9/11 TERRORISM CASE

    Authorities investigated one previous terrorism case in Idaho, which ended in acquittal.

    THE MAN: Sami Al-Hussayen is a Saudi Arabian citizen who pursued a doctoral degree in computer science at the University of Idaho. He also had degrees from King Saud University in Saudi Arabia and Ball State University in Indiana. He is married and has three sons.

    Federal agents arrested him at his Moscow home on Feb. 26, 2003. He was accused of supporting terrorist groups through his work maintaining overseas websites.

    THE CHARGES: Two counts of conspiracy to support terrorism; one count of providing material support to terror groups; 11 counts of visa and immigration fraud. The potential penalty was up to 15 years in prison for each terrorism-related charge and up to five years per fraud charge. Separately, an immigration judge ruled in April 2003 that Al-Hussayen could be deported because he had earned money as a website manager in violation of his student visa.

    THE VERDICT: After seven days of deliberations, jurors found the University of Idaho graduate student not guilty of the three terrorism-related charges against him and two of the 11 visa and immigration fraud charges, which negated another charge. Jurors deadlocked on the remaining charges, prompting U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge to declare a mistrial on those.

    Later in 2004, Al-Hussayen was deported to Saudi Arabia, where he lives today.

  • KURBANOV IN BUSINESS?

    Eight days before he was arrested, Fazliddin Kurbanov apparently filed documents with the Idaho secretary of state to form a new corporation.

    Fazzliddin Kurbanov Inc. has as its address 585 S. Curtis Road, the apartment where Kurbanov was arrested Thursday. (Federal charges spell his name Fazliddin, slightly different from the name submitted to the secretary of state through a third party that handles corporation filings.) The simple filing contains no other details on the company or the business it engages in.

    U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson would not comment on what role, if any, this new business plays in the charges against Kurbanov.

No family members of Fazliddin Kurbanov, 30, attended his arraignment Friday in a Boise courtroom packed with media.

Kurbanov, a truck driver, was arrested at an apartment complex off of Cassia Street and Curtis Road on Thursday morning after grand juries in two states indicted him on terrorism-related charges.

In Idaho, the grand jury's indictment charges Kurbanov with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, and one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. The indictment also alleges he possessed an unregistered explosive device.

A detention hearing Tuesday will determine whether he will be set free before his July 2 trial.

Jan Reeves, director of the Idaho Office for Refugees, confirmed Friday that Kurbanov was admitted to the U.S. as a refugee in August 2009 and resettled in Boise. Reeves would not say whether Kurbanov came to the U.S. with family or which of the three local resettlement agencies handled his case.

About 665 Uzbeks have come to Idaho through the refugee program since 2003, settling in Boise and Twin Falls.

Reeves said Thursday's arrest was the first time a resettled refugee in Idaho has been accused of terrorist activities. More than 13,000 refugees have made new homes in Boise since 1975 at the end of the Vietnam War, he said.

"There may be a concern about what this arrest means," Reeves said. "But I want to remind people that refugees are among the most highly scrutinized people who come into the U.S. They go through several rounds of interviews, including interviews with Homeland Security. Refugees wait a very long time in terms of security. There has been great attention paid.

"These charges are simply charges at this point. They should not reflect on Boise's larger Uzbek community."

About 90 percent of Uzbeks in their home country are Muslim. U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said Internet comments following Thursday's arrest have wrongly blamed Muslims living in Idaho. "These charges shouldn't be seen as a reflection on that community," Olson said.

UNEXPECTED EVENTS

A wind chime with the word "welcome" hung outside the Kurbanov family's Boise Bench apartment Friday. But a sign on the door read: "We are not talking to visitors at this time. Please respect our privacy. Thank you."

Just three doors down, an Agency for New Americans truck had pulled in. The majority of residents are refugees. Workers were unloading furniture for a new family moving in that afternoon.

"This will be strange for them, moving in today after all of this," said a worker who wouldn't give his name.

Dirk Bratley has lived in the complex for about a year and a half, downstairs from the Kurbanov family. He said that when he arrived home from work on Thursday, he found his usual parking lot filled with law enforcement. He was allowed into his apartment and cooked dinner as usual.

"Then I sat outside, eating a banana, watching the FBI going in and out and carrying boxes out of the apartment," Bratley said.

He later looked up Kurbanov's indictment online.

He didn't know the family well, he said, other than nodding "hello" when passing. He said he'd seen an older couple at the apartment, as well as a younger woman and two young children. He rarely saw Kurbanov, he said.

"I hadn't even realized that he lived there," Bratley said.

Ibrohim El-Khoshimiy is an Uzbek refugee who arrived in the U.S. three years ago and now works for a company that rents goats. He lived for a time in the same apartment complex as Kurbanov and knows him and his parents.

"He was a good guy with a good father and a good mother," El-Khoshimiy said.

El-Khoshimiy said he talked to Kurbanov's dad after the arrest. Zaynidin Kurbanov was surprised, El-Khoshimiy said, because he always asked his son if everything was going OK. Fazliddin always said it was.

WHAT'S NEXT?

Kurbanov will remain in custody until at least Tuesday's detention hearing. U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge will preside over his trial in July.

He's being represented by a federal public defender and will require the services of an interpreter for his court appearances. His primary language is Uzbek; he also speaks Russian, according to court documents.

His lawyer, Richard Rubin, declined comment.

The Idaho charges will be addressed first. Then, Kurbanov will to stand trial in Utah on a federal charge of distributing information about explosives, bombs and weapons of mass destruction.

The Associated Press contributed to these reports. Anna Webb: 377-6431, Cynthia Sewell: 377-3428

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