U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Nuradin Abdi has been in custody since November
updated 6/16/2004 6:30:58 PM ET 2004-06-16T22:30:58

A man charged with plotting to blow up a shopping mall slammed his face on a table and smiled vacantly Wednesday in a courtroom where a federal magistrate ordered tests to determine whether he is competent to stand trial.

Authorities have accused Nuradin Abdi, 32, of plotting an attack with admitted al-Qaida member Iyman Faris, who is now imprisoned for never-acted-on plans to sabotage the Brooklyn Bridge. Hundreds of Abdi’s supporters gathered to proclaim his innocence at the courthouse where Magistrate Mark Abel ordered the Somali national transferred to a federal psychiatric facility.

Abel found that Abdi’s behavior in jail and his attorney’s difficulties communicating with him made an evaluation necessary. The transcript of Abel’s discussion with attorneys about Abdi’s behavior has been sealed, but Abdi acted strangely before and during Wednesday’s hearing.

After being helped to a chair, Abdi slammed his face to the glass table and kept it there for a few minutes. During the proceedings, he looked around, smiled at no one in particular, and put his head back on the table.

Abdi also kicked the table, fidgeted with his wrist and ankle shackles and kept pushing his chair back from the table. Toward the end of the hearing, he started muttering.

Some friends and relatives of Abdi who were in the courtroom said they were shocked at his behavior.

‘A broken man’
“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.”

The indictment against Abdi was unsealed Monday. The FBI said no specific mall was targeted.

Authorities have a third suspect under surveillance and are trying to determine how many others might have been involved, U.S. Attorney Gregory Lockhart said in published reports Wednesday.

“I don’t know that we know at this point know who all the people he (Abdi) was associated with are,” Lockhart said.

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.

Arrested in November
Abdi, who operated a small cell phone business, was arrested last November at his apartment, just after Thanksgiving when malls across America were crowded with shoppers. He was held at first on immigration violations, authorities said.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said the charges revealed Monday against Abdi serve as a reminder that al-Qaida is determined “to hit the United States and hit us hard.”

Abdi’s relatives insist he is innocent and never spoke out against the U.S. government. Sherif said it was too early for him to comment about the charges but added, “It’s not beyond the government to make mistakes for whatever reason.”

About 100 supporters, including Abdi’s family, filled the seats in the courtroom and stood along the walls during the hearing. Afterward they joined about 200 other supporters, many from the Somali community, in front of the courthouse, where many waved small American flags and a few held up signs that read “Nuradin is 100 percent innocent” and “Patriot Act  Religious Profiling.”

According to U.S. immigration records, Abdi entered the United States in 1995, lived for a time in Canada, and then returned to the United States in August 1997. Abdi was granted asylum in America as a refugee in January 1999 after giving false information to immigration officials, the government charges.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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