A grocer of Palestinian descent pleaded guilty to misleading FBI agents about his brother's intentions to leave the United States for Israel and become a suicide bomber.
On the day before his trial, Mohamed Subeh, 43, acknowledged in U.S. District Court he deceived federal agents when he denied seeing a letter from his brother that indicated he was going home to the West Bank to join the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militant group that has claimed credit for suicide bombings in Israel.
Prosecutors said Subeh destroyed the letter, but not before investigators had the opportunity to photocopy it and have it translated.
Subeh, a naturalized U.S. citizen, pleaded guilty late Thursday to a felony count of concealing a material fact from the FBI. At sentencing April 4, he could get up to six months in prison or be placed on probation.
Indicted on three counts of making false statements to the FBI, he had faced up to five years in prison.
Subeh's brother, Ismail Dorgham, 24, was stopped in 2003 at the Greater Rochester International Airport when he used cash to purchase a one-way ticket to Jordan and had no luggage.
While he was questioned, an FBI counterterrorism agent found the note to Subeh — written in Arabic — in Dorham's possession, saying he wanted to avenge the shooting death of their brother, Moussa, by Israeli police in May 2002 and become a suicide bomber.
When Subeh came upon the letter, he flushed it down a toilet and rushed to the airport in a vain attempt to stop Dorgham from leaving. His efforts to have Dorgham taken off the flight led to him being questioned. Asked if Dorgham was going to Israel to be a suicide bomber, Subeh said he couldn't answer "one way or the other but that Dorgham's mental state worried him," FBI Agent Joseph Testani said.
The FBI translated a copy of the document a week after it was found and concluded that Dorgham intended to become a suicide bomber on behalf of a terrorist organization. In it, Dorgham wrote, "God willing I will get revenge for my brother Moussa and for all the martyrs who have sacrificed their blood."
The FBI said Dorgham also was carrying a newspaper article detailing a suicide bombing carried out by a teenage cousin in Jerusalem that killed 10 Israelis in March 2002.
Dorgham's defenders insist he went home to get married. He is currently living with his wife and his 2 1/2-year-old son in Bethlehem in the West Bank, Subeh's lawyer, John Parrinello said.
Confronted with the letter, Subeh "initially denied knowing about it," his lawyer said. "The whole problem was Mohamed's anxiety to try to prevent his brother from leaving without getting him in trouble. It ended up getting Mohamed in trouble."