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No release for U.S. man accused of spying on Syrian dissidents

October 28, 2011 | 12:25 pm

Mohamad Soueid
A federal judge ruled Friday that a Syrian-born U.S. citizen accused of monitoring Syrian dissidents in the U.S. for Syrian intelligence will continue being detained through a March 5 trial date. 

The ruling comes after prosecutors appealed U.S. Magistrate Judge T. Rawles Jones Jr.’s order last week that Mohamad “Alex” Soueid be released on bail because he was “at worst, a low-level operative.”

But this week, prosecutor Dennis Fitzpatrick pulled out more evidence and details suggesting that Soueid was a high-level operative intending to hurt U.S. residents who continued to protest the regime of Syria’s president, Bashar Assad. Fitzpatrick said he only “tread lightly” on evidence at last week’s detention hearing because much of it came from a confidential source whose life he did not want to endanger more than necessary.

In detailing conversations with the FBI-paid informant, Fitzpatrick’s brief describes Soueid as wanting to retaliate against two people who are suing him and other Syrian Embassy officials for tracking their personal life and harming their families in Syria. One of those suing is a woman from Alexandria, Va.; her father was killed in Syria and her 5-year-old daughter was kidnapped.

Fitzpatrick also said that five days after Soueid returned from a two-week trip to Syria this summer, where he met with Assad, Soueid took the confidential source to a shooting range in Lorton, Va. There, he was reportedly so impressed with the source’s shooting ability that he told an overseas intelligence contact about it on the phone later that night.

Further, Soueid allegedly asked the source if he had ever killed anyone. The two reportedly agreed to stick with Plan A, collecting and delivering information about Syrian dissidents in the United States, until they needed Plan B, taking hostile action.

Haytham Faraj, Soueid’s defense lawyer, called Fitzpatrick’s claims exaggerated and said they were overly assumptive of the defendant’s intentions.

Soueid -- owner of an AK-47, Beretta .40-caliber pistol and Ruger firearm -- is simply a long-time member of the National Rifle Assn. who often went to shooting ranges and hunted with his twin 15-year-old sons, Faraj said. The man Fitzpatrick is calling an overseas intelligence contact is a friend of Soueid’s, Faraj said.


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Photo: Syrian-born U.S. citizen Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid, left, meets with Syrian President Bashar Assad in this photograph that was used in federal court in Virginia earlier this month. A federal judge ruled to continue detaining Soueid through a March 5 trial date. Credit: Reuters / U.S. Justice Department