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Ohio man, suspected al-Qaida errand boy, seeks to withdraw guil

Friday, September 26, 2003

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- A man accused of plotting to topple the Brooklyn Bridge on orders from al-Qaida has asked to withdraw his guilty plea.

Iyman Faris, 34, formerly of Columbus, Ohio, pleaded guilty in May to charges that he provided sleeping bags, cell phones and cash to al-Qaida.

Authorities say Faris traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan to carry out errands for the terrorist organization. He also met with Osama bin Laden and scouted U.S. sites for possible terrorist attacks, including a plan to take down the Brooklyn Bridge with tools called gas cutters that could burn through its cables, the government says.

Faris allegedly concluded that such a plan would be unlikely to succeed, and reported that back to al-Qaida.

The defense motion filed Wednesday by Faris' attorney, Frederick Sinclair, suggested a conflict between the attorney and his client.

"Mr. Faris has stated to counsel he wishes to withdraw his plea of guilty for reasons not yet fully explained to counsel by Mr. Faris," the motion said.

Sinclair also wrote that he is awaiting a mental-health evaluation of Faris and that Faris may have been hospitalized in Columbus for an attempted suicide. In a July court document, Sinclair said Faris has been placed on a suicide watch at the Alexandria jail and was taking Prozac, an anti-depressant.

A call to the lawyer was not immediately returned.

Faris' sentencing had been scheduled for today but was postponed Tuesday.

, with no new date set. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty said Faris' guilty plea "has been properly taken by the court, and is not easily set aside. I'm not going to comment beyond that."

Faris' ex-wife, Geneva Bowling, said Thursday that Faris seemed mentally stable around the time he was taken into government custody last spring. But she questioned his stability in the months after their 2000 divorce, which also followed the deaths of his father and stepmother.

At the time, "He was very depressed, very down and out," Bowling said.

Faris, who was born in Pakistan and became a U.S. citizen in 1999, worked for several years as a truck driver.


Associated Press writer Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus contributed to this report.


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