As the FBI terrorist task force investigates materials found in a Northwest Baltimore apartment where several Middle Eastern men lived, a federal judge ordered one of the home's residents held without bail yesterday while the probe continues.
Khoshal Wahid Nasery, 23, an Afghan national who is being held in Immigration and Naturalization Service custody, has been charged with overstaying his visit to the United States. He denied any links to terrorist activity, making the remarks in a teleconferenced exchange with Judge Lisa Dornell in a Justice Department immigration court.
"As far as I know, I have done nothing wrong criminal-wise, ma'am," said Nasery, 23, who said he holds a Canadian passport and entered the United States in December 2000 from Canada, where he said he had lived for several years.
But Dornell rejected his pleas to be released and said federal authorities have information which raises "serious concerns" about Nasery and a cohort of young Middle Eastern men and one Somali man who lived together in the 3600 block of Labyrinth Road, near Park Heights Avenue.
Among the items found at the apartment were Islamic Jihad "holy war" documents, computer links to flight schools and local airport information, according to immigration officials.
Lawyers representing the INS argued in court that Nasery should be detained without bail for 30 days while a federal investigation examines possible terrorist links.
But Dornell granted only two weeks of detention pending a bail hearing, saying that she needed to weigh the interests of the investigation against Nasery's civil liberties in an immigration case which carries a minor charge.
Special Agent Barry A. Maddox, a spokesman for the FBI's Baltimore field office, confirmed yesterday that FBI agents are working with Baltimore police and INS agents in the case.
"We are devoting all the resources we have with the terrorist task force, and we are aggressively and thoroughly trying to come to a conclusion with this," Maddox said.
Six of the young men who lived at the same address are in custody on immigration charges and are being held at the Wicomico County Detention Center.
In an unusual political flurry over their arrests, Baltimore Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris and Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. urged the FBI and the INS to look at the case more closely.
Nasery was the first of the six to appear before an immigration judge in a hearing open to the public. Only one other, Abderrahim Houti, 44, of Morocco, has been named by federal officials. No judicial hearings for the four unnamed men have been scheduled, federal officials said yesterday.
At yesterday's hearing, Nasery said he supported himself by working for a Baltimore fast-food chain, earning money by "just helping out" friends off the books.
"I have been working in every single New York Fried Chicken [franchise] in Baltimore," Nasery said. He said he also had worked at a New York Fried Chicken store that opened in Washington.
Nasery told the judge he spent time in Dover, Del., shortly before being arrested.
He said he sent money to his ailing mother and sister, who he said live in Pakistan.
Nasery said he kept only his clothes at the Labyrinth Road address and denied knowledge of the material police and federal agents found suggestive of a terrorist underground.
Dornell said in her closing remarks that she found Nasery evasive in his answers to some questions, which included asking for last names of his friends and employers.
"The respondent is clearly a flight risk," Dornell said. "He has limited ties, has moved around a lot and is vague about what his associations have been."
Sun staff writer Gail Gibson contributed to this article.