updated 9/10/2005 10:36:48 PM ET 2005-09-11T02:36:48

The FBI conducted extensive surveillance of two mosques for months, monitoring them with closed circuit television and using two undercover agents, raising complaints from the mosques’ leader.

On New Year’s Eve, video surveillance showed two men pulling up to the now-defunct Masjid Al Mu’mineen, pulling firearms from the trunk of their car and firing shots into the air, the FBI said in an affidavit filed in federal court. The mosque’s leader on Saturday denied any wrongdoing.

Agents who had been conducting the investigation at least since November suspected that the leader’s son-in-law had an automatic weapon, among several weapons he is alleged to have possessed illegally because he is a felon convicted of multiple robberies in 1990.

No automatic weapon was found, but Richard James Pulley, also known as Khaliq Ali Abdul As Salaam, 32, was arrested last month. Pulley, who is free on bond, has a hearing Monday on a federal weapons charge after FBI agents recovered three handguns.

He contends the guns were owned by his wife. His attorney did not return repeated telephone messages from The Associated Press for more than a week.

“With 9-11 coming up, they want to justify their job. ... They’re on a witch hunt,” said Pulley’s father-in-law, Seifudeen Mateen. “If being Muslim is a crime, then I’m guilty.”

Mateen, also known as Steve Hernandez, 48, was the head of Masjid Al Mu’mineen and Masjid al-Islam, which at one point had about 40 members.

Focus on federal buildings, terror training
Family members were questioned about whether they had made sketches or taken photographs of federal buildings, and whether they were involved in terrorist training, under what Mateen alleged was the pretext of a guns and welfare fraud investigation.

“They came up empty,” said Mateen, who said he preached nonviolence. “We’re not involved in any tactical training, any terrorism — that’s not what we do.”

The case is not related to the FBI’s investigation of terrorist attacks allegedly planned by Islamic residents in Lodi, an agricultural community south of Sacramento, nor to assaults allegedly planned against Jewish targets in Southern California, said FBI spokeswoman Karen Ernst.

Those cases, and the extensive surveillance of the Sacramento mosques, were launched because the FBI suspected criminal activity, not because the Islamic community was targeted, said Ernst and Drew Parenti, who heads the FBI’s Sacramento office.

“Are we targeting mosques in particular? No. It’s the information you receive,” Ernst said. “It’s not like, ’There’s a mosque, let’s surveil it.”’

She said no additional charges in the Masjid Al Mu’mineen and Masjid al-Islam investigation was anticipated.

Basim Elkarra, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Sacramento, said Islamic groups are monitoring the FBI’s investigations.

“We’re interested to see to what extent they’re using informants, and whether there’s entrapment,” he said.

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