updated 4/23/2005 11:29:23 PM ET 2005-04-24T03:29:23

In just months, Hussein S. Hussein went from being an internationally known animal nutrition researcher who brought millions of dollars in grants to the University of Nevada, Reno, to a campus pariah.

The reversal is an unfinished story of dead research animals, hidden surveillance cameras and FBI inquiries into allegations of terrorism and toxins.

Hussein, a native of Egypt, alleges that campus police were directed to call in the FBI to intimidate him earlier this year because of trumped up fears that his lab housed biohazards. He has filed two lawsuits in federal court against the university system, UNR President John Lilley and other administrators.

‘They called me a terrorist’
Hussein, an animal nutritionist, accuses them of orchestrating reprisals and trying to fire him since he complained to the U.S. Department of Agriculture last summer about alleged abuse of research animals at the college’s labs and farms.

“They sent the FBI to my house to harass me as a terrorist. My name is a problem for me, especially at a time like this,” Hussein told the AP. “The FBI was told ‘His name is Hussein. He has biological weapons in his lab and there has been a break-in at the lab.’ In front of my wife and my son, they called me a terrorist.”

FBI spokesman David Schron said UNR police reported “homeland security concerns” Feb. 2 based on information they received “that there could be some potentially dangerous microbes in this lab where the break-ins were possibly occurring.”

“We determined by the end of the night there was nothing dangerous in the lab,” Schron said from Las Vegas.

Concerns legitimate, police say
Todd Renwick, associate director of the UNR Police Department, defended calling in the FBI and denied it was intended to intimidate anyone.

“We did interview two students that had indicated there are toxic pathogens in there and that they could be harmful,” Renwick said. “If somebody did enter this lab and leave with pathogens, there could have been a threat to public health.”

Lilley won’t say if he played a role in bringing in the FBI or discuss Hussein’s claims. Lilley maintains the university will be vindicated when state and federal investigations are complete.

Last summer, Hussein notified the USDA of alleged abuse of research animals, including the deaths of dozens of sheep, starvation of cattle and mistreatment of pigs. The USDA is conducting two investigations into alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act at UNR, spokesman Darby Holladay said.

The university accused Hussein of violating research protocols by asking an independent veterinarian to examine and draw blood from pigs that Hussein and his students said were being abused.

Charges ruled groundless
After seven hours of testimony, a hearing officer and review panel declared the school’s charges groundless and recommended Lilley dismiss them.

Hussein also alleges Lilley approved hiding a surveillance camera in a smoke detector outside Hussein’s lab. University officials say the camera was to monitor a possible hate crime after another professor found a swastika drawn on Hussein’s door.

UNR police wanted to charge Hussein with obstructing their investigation but state investigators determined there was insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against him.

Hussein said school lawyers have offered him significant payments to settle his civil lawsuits, but he refused.

“I believe in the truth,” he said. “I can’t wait to go to court.”

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