At a pre-trial hearing, federal U.S. district Judge Algenon L. Marbley questioned FBI Special Agent James Turgal concerning the agency's handling of Nuradin Abdi, the so-called "mall bomber."

The August 26 Dispatch headline read: "Judge questions lack of warrant in terrorism arrest."

Judge Marbley probed the timing of Abdi's arrest on November 28, 2003 ? the day after Thanksgiving and the busiest shopping day of the year. Turgal conceded that the agency had "probable cause" to arrest Abdi two months earlier.

Equally curious is the fact that Abdi's arrest, and allegations that he wanted to blow up a mall, were dramatically announced by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft on Monday, June 14, 2004. That day marked the eve of John Kerry's first major fund-raising stop in Columbus, Ohio, where Abdi lives. Kerry's two-day visit to Ohio's capital city raised more than a million dollars but was overshadowed by the Ashcroft announcement.

Ashcroft sternly warned, "The American heartland was targeted for death and destruction by an al-Qaeda cell allegedly which included a Somali immigrant who will now face justice." reported that, "No specific mall was targeted. No explosives were in hand, and it was unclear that the alleged terrorist had the wherewithal to do it."

These facts, however, did not stop George W. Bush from campaigning all over Ohio on the Abdi arrest and telling crowds that his administration had saved them from a mall bombing.

Marbley also questioned why Abdi was arrested without a warrant: "If you knew at least as early as September, and you know the court's preference for an arrest with a warrant, why didn't the FBI get a warrant?" Special-Agent-In-Charge (SAIC) Richard H. Wilkins, Jr. told Judge Marbley that much of the information was classified.

Abdi is not charged with conspiring to attack any mall in central Ohio or anywhere else; rather he is charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and to al-Qaeda in particular, as well as lying to procure travel documents.

Oddly, Abdi, the supposed al-Qaeda operative, is being held in the downtown Franklin County Jail. The Free Press has learned that the government had offered him a deal to serve only five years if he would plead guilty to the charges against him. Sources close to the case suggest that this is not the type of offer the government would give a true suspect al-Qaeda operative.

The initial information against Abdi came from Iyman Faris, a man who attended the same mosque as Abdi. Faris, who has a history of mental instability, pleaded guilty, and claimed that he scouted the Brooklyn Bridge and other sites as possible al-Qaeda targets. Skeptics charge that Faris' confession, that he was trying to get special types of heavy duty saws to chop down the bridge, is absurd and a product of his mental instability.

Abdi told the Free Press that the FBI and immigration officials deprived him of sleep and put foul smelling substances on his nose during his interrogation. Family members have told the Free Press that they witnessed him being beaten in a Circleville jail by law enforcement officials.

SAIC Wilkins told Marbley that, "He told us that he was going to blow up a shopping mall; we thought he was going to shoot up a shopping mall." Again, Abdi has not been charged with any such crime. Abdi has denied all allegations and charges.

The Somali community turned out in large numbers at the federal courthouse on August 25, to protest what they saw as the targeting of a vulnerable Muslim immigrant for political purposes. That was the day a defense motion was heard to suppress any statements made by Abdi during his interrogation.

When Abdi first appeared in federal court last spring, his behavior was so erratic that Judge Marbley ordered him into a mental health facility until he could recover and stand trial. Abdi told the Free Press that his behavior was the direct result of sleep deprivation and other tactics used by the FBI while he was in custody.