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Two Iraqi-Americans are accused of spying for Saddam Hussein's former regime and sharing information with the executed Iraqi dictator's intelligence service, according to US authorities.
The charges against Najib Shemami, 58, and Ghazi Al-Awadi, 78, are based on Iraqi intelligence documents captured by US forces in Iraq in 2003 and authenticated by former members of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, authorities said.
US Attorney Stephen J. Murphy said the four-year investigation was "somewhat unusual," since the documents were seized overseas by the military. But delays in bringing charges are typical when material has be processed through other government agencies before a criminal investigation can begin, he said.
"We finally achieved enough evidence to go forward to the grand jury," Murphy told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
A federal grand jury indictment accuses Shemami of four espionage-related charges for activity between March 2002 and early 2003, according to the US attorney's office in Detroit and the FBI.
A criminal complaint filed against Al-Awadi says he told the Iraqi Intelligence Service in 1997 that he killed his son-in-law because the man belonged to an anti-Saddam political party.
Shemami and Al-Awadi are charged with conspiring to act as agents of a foreign government without notification of the US attorney general, and acting as an agent for a foreign government. Both men were born in Iraq and are naturalized US citizens, officials said.
Shemami also is charged with violating the US International Emergency Economic Powers Act and making false statements to the FBI.
Both men were arrested Tuesday. US Magistrate Judge Donald Scheer freed both men on $10,000 bonds following brief appearances in US District Court. He ordered both men to surrender their passports.
Al-Awadi is scheduled for a May 7 hearing. No court date has been set for Shemami, said Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for the US attorney's office.
Messages were left Tuesday and Wednesday for Shemami's lawyer, Juan Mateo. A message was left Wednesday for Andrew Wise, the federal defender who has been assigned to represent Al-Awadi.
Mateo told the Detroit Free Press: "I've known the family for many years now. They are a hardworking Chaldean family that, in my opinion, would never do anything to hurt the United States."
Authorities say Shemami acted as a spy under the Saddam government, conspiring "with others to act as an agent of the government of Iraq."
Murphy said while Saddam's government no longer exists, the alleged crime and the threat it represented is serious. "Because the regime has fallen ... it doesn't mean that criminal activity didn't exist."
The most serious charge against Shemami, violating the economic powers act, carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The most serious charge against Al-Awadi, acting as a foreign agent, carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Both men are US citizens. Shemami is married, has nine children and has lived in the United States for about 40 years, Mateo told the Free Press. Al-Awadi, who has seven children, has been in the United States since 1974, court records said.
In 1996, Al-Awadi was paroled after serving six years of a five- to 15-year sentence for manslaughter in the stabbing of his son-in-law, Emad Muttar.
The Detroit area contains one of the US's largest concentrations of people with roots in the Middle East, including an Iraqi community of Shiites and Chaldeans.