An immigrant from Palestine avoided imprisonment for failing to tell the FBI about his brother's written vow to become a suicide bomber in Israel.
Mohammad Subeh, a 43-year-old grocery store owner who pleaded guilty to a felony count of concealing a material fact from the FBI, was placed on probation for a year and fined $250 (183 EUR).
"The atmosphere is bad. This is fear of a terrorist situation," Subeh said in an interview after drawing a minimum sentence. "If it wasn't for Sept. 11, there was no case, actually."
Subeh admitted deceiving federal agents in 2003 when he denied seeing a farewell letter in which his brother indicated he was traveling home to the West Bank to join the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militant group that has claimed credit for suicide bombings in Israel.
His 21-year-old brother, Ismail Dorgham, abruptly quit his job at the store and flew back to the Middle East. Prosecutors say Dorgham carried a letter in his wallet - and left a copy for Subeh - 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 his brother taken off the flight led to Subeh being questioned. Asked if Dorgham was going to Israel to be a suicide bomber, Subeh said he could not answer "one way or the other but that Dorgham's mental state worried him," FBI Agent Joseph Testani said.
Dorgham already had been questioned by FBI agents who photocopied the letter in his wallet but did not get it translated from Arabic until six days later. In it, Dorgham wrote that "God willing I will get revenge for my brother Moussa and for all the martyrs who have sacrificed their blood."
Dorgham was detained for three weeks on his arrival in Jordan. He has since married and lives with his wife and their 2-year-old son in Bethlehem.
Indicted on three counts of making false statements to the FBI, Subeh had faced up to five years in prison. But under a plea deal in January, the naturalized citizen and father of five faced a maximum sentence of six months in prison.
"I have given much thought (to) why I withheld the contents of the letter and have concluded that I was emotionally torn and did not want to get my brother into trouble," Subeh said in a letter to U.S. District Judge Charles Siragusa.
"By pleading guilty, I believe I have demonstrated my acceptance of responsibility," he wrote. "My family and I and my friends have suffered a great deal of humiliation in this community."
"The initial prosecution certainly was a little overzealous," said Subeh's attorney, John Parrinello. "To a certain extent, he is definitely vindicated."
"This proceeding never would have happened if Mr. Subeh did not lie to law enforcement," countered U.S. Attorney Terrance Flynn.