The families of three men of Middle Eastern descent accused of plotting to kill American and allied soldiers in Iraq say they never saw the trio together.
"We know all his friends. We've never seen those guys," said Bilal Mazloum, whose brother was among those charged with recruiting and training others to fight against troops in Iraq and other countries.
"My whole life I've been with him, around him all the time," said Mazloum, who said he and his brother ran a car dealership together.
The three suspects have pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiring to kill Americans and harboring or concealing terrorists, and could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of the most serious offenses.
Attorneys for two of the men - Wassim I. Mazloum and Marwan Othman El-Hindi - told Magistrate Judge Vernelis K. Armstrong in US District Court in Toledo that they have not had time to gather enough evidence to argue for the men's release. The attorneys did not object to the men continuing to be held at a prison in nearby Milan, Michigan.
Mazloum, 24, is Lebanese and came to the United States in 2000. He is a legal permanent resident of the US.
El-Hindi, 43, is a US citizen born in Jordan. Mohammad Zaki Amawi, 26, a citizen of both the US and Jordan, is to appear at a detention hearing on Tuesday in Cleveland.
Amawi's mother said she had met her son's friends and many had dinner at their home, but she never saw Mazloum or El-Hindi. An acquaintance of all three, bakery owner Abdul Hammuda, said he had no idea how all three met. "I never saw them together," he said.
All three of the men had lived in Toledo, Ohio in the last year and two had attended the University of Toledo.
Mohammed Alo, a former president of a Muslim student group at the school, said none of the men were well-known within the community.
"They really didn't mingle with the Muslim community," he said. "It seems they kept as low as a profile as they could."
El-Hindi's attorney, Steve Hartman, said his client, a married father of seven, has been steadfast in his denial of involvement in the alleged plot.
El-Hindi, a recruiter for a company that helps get US students into European medical schools, is most concerned about his family and his wife who does not work or drive, Hartman said.
"He understands that because he's a Muslim and this involves terrorism a lot people presume he's guilty," Hartman said.
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