Saturday, March 8, 2014
The South Portland man who is under federal investigation for possible financial ties to an attempted bombing in New York City told a diplomat Friday that he doesn't know the two Massachusetts men who are in custody in the same probe.
Mohammad Shafiq Rahman, 34, also said he met the car bomb suspect, Faisal Shahzad, several years ago, when they lived in Connecticut, but they were not friends and he has not spoken with him recently.
"He looks perplexed," said Barry Hoffman, Pakistan's consul general in Boston. "He doesn't know these fellows from Boston."
Hoffman met with Rahman for about 45 minutes at the South Portland offices of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Rahman was transported to the offices from his cell at the Cumberland County Jail in Portland, where he is in federal custody.
Rahman is a Pakistani citizen who has lived in the United States since 2001, and moved to Maine a few years ago. He was arrested by federal agents May 13, accused of an immigration violation. Hoffman said Rahman's work visa expired in 2006 and he decided to remain in the U.S. after his request for an extension was denied.
U.S. Department of Justice officials have said Rahman and two Pakistani citizens from Watertown, Mass., helped provide the money that Shahzad used for an attempted car bombing on May 1 in New York City's Times Square. But the officials say the men may not have known they were supplying funds that supported terrorism.
Like Rahman, Aftab Khan, 27, and Pir Khan, 43, were arrested May 13 for alleged immigration violations.
Pir Khan, who is married to a woman who grew up in Litchfield, made his first court appearance Tuesday and was ordered held without bail. Aftab Khan appeared in court Thursday. The judge in Immigration Court in Boston said she will rule within a week on whether he will be allowed bail.
A government lawyer said Shahzad's phone number and name were found in Aftab Khan's cell phone, and were written on an envelope that was found in the apartment the Khans shared in Watertown. Both men have told their lawyer that they don't know Shahzad, according to The Associated Press.
Rahman is a computer programmer who is employed by Artist and Craftsman Supply in Portland. He worked previously with several technology firms, including Saco-based Maine Technology Providers, according to a profile believed to have been posted by Rahman on a business networking website.
Rahman's wife, Sara Rahman, has retained an immigration lawyer, Cynthia Arn, and a criminal defense lawyer, Martin Ridge, Hoffman said.
Arn has said she cannot comment on the case without the approval of her client. Ridge could not be reached for comment late Friday. Sara Rahman has declined to speak publicly about the case.
Hoffman said he visited on Friday to make sure that Rahman's needs are being met.
"He looked very good. I have high praise for the sheriff, and I really compliment the facility for treating him kindly," Hoffman said.
Hoffman was disturbed when he visited Pir Khan at the jail in Plymouth County, Mass., this week, because Khan was brought into the interview room in leg shackles and handcuffs.
Rahman has been provided with a prayer rug and a copy of the Quran, and he is not being served meals with pork, Hoffman said.
"Muslims pray several times daily. I just want to make sure that he is treated like other people with visa violations," he said.
Hoffman said he doesn't know what information the government has that supposedly connects Rahman with Shahzad. Immigration and Customs has declined to provide any details.
Hoffman has been concerned by the public backlash against Pakistanis since the arrest of Shahzad.
"The Pakistani community in the U.S. is several hundred thousand people, mostly highly educated, doctors, engineers, businessmen," Hoffman said. "They serve in the military and die in the military.
"In the case of Faisal Shahzad," he said, "everyone gets blamed, and it's not fair."
Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org