Bogus al-Qaeda bust in Brazil

A Lebanese man held in Brazil for three weeks for posting anti-US comments on the Internet is not a member of al-Qaeda, as one Brazilian newspaper reported, federal prosecutors said May 27. The man, identified only as “K,” is a self-employed computer technician with permanent residency in Brazil, where he lives with his Brazilian wife and daughter, officials and his lawyer said. He was released on May 18 this week after being arrested three weeks ago in Sao Paulo.

Federal prosecutor Ana Leticia Absy said in a statement that the investigation “did not show that the detainee in Sao Paulo was a member of al-Qaeda.” Absy added that Brazilian police had been alerted to “K” by the US FBI, which had detected his “discriminatory and anti-US messages” written in Arabic on the Internet.

The Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo reported May 26 that an alleged senior member in “the international communications sector of al-Qaeda” was being held by Brazilian police. The paper did not give a source for its report, but repeated reference to the FBI in the story suggested the US agency gave the information.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, questioned about the report, said “I don’t know anything” about an al-Qaeda member in custody. He confirmed “K” had been probed, but “for all that, there are no grounds to accuse this person of anything.” Lula also expressed irritation at unidentified “people outside of Brazil to give opinions on what goes on inside here.”

K’s lawyer, Mehry Daychoum, told Folha de S. Paulo May 27 that his client “has no ties whatsoever with any paramilitary or terrorist organization.” He simply “made the unfortunate mistake of commenting on the Internet without ever imagining that that might be a crime in Brazil.” (AFP, May 27)

See our last post on Brazil.