December 28, 2001

Judge Orders Shoe - Bomb Suspect Held in Jail

BOSTON (Reuters) -- The man suspected of trying to destroy a transatlantic airliner by detonating explosives in his shoes was ordered held without bail on Friday after an FBI agent said the bombs were powerful enough to blow a hole in the jet.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Dein said prosecutors had produced enough evidence to show that Richard Reid was a danger to the community and might try to flee. Shortly after finding there was probable cause for his arrest last Saturday, Dein ordered Reid's indefinite detention pending further court proceedings.

``The defendant is to be bound over for further proceedings in the District Court,'' Dein said.

Reid, a 28-year-old British citizen, was overpowered by passengers and crew on American Airlines Flight 63 last Saturday after a flight attendant saw him apparently trying to set his shoes on fire. His black athletic shoes later were found to contain explosives.

He has been charged with interfering with a flight crew, a crime that carries a penalty of 20 years in prison, but officials have indicated more charges are likely.


The attempted attack aboard the Boeing 767 bound from Paris to Miami made Reid the focus of an international probe to see if he is connected to a guerrilla network or if his act was meant as a follow-up to the Sept. 11 hijack plane attacks on the United States that killed about 3,000 people.

U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said on Friday there was no credible evidence Reid had an accomplice on the plane and neither U.S. nor European officials have disclosed any links to the al Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden, blamed by the United States for the Sept. 11 attacks.

But some possible links have been established. Reid worshiped at the same London mosque as Zacarias Moussaoui, a Frenchman of Moroccan descent who is the only person charged in the United States with being part of the Sept. 11 plot.

In addition, FBI agent Margaret Cronin testified on Friday that preliminary tests showed Reid's shoes contained enough of a volatile and powerful plastic explosive called triacetone triperoxide, known as TATP, to blow a hole in the side of the aircraft if it had been detonated.

``If the sneakers had been placed against the outside wall ... they would have created a hole in the fuselage,'' Cronin said.

TATP is an explosive that can be made from nail polish remover, hair bleach and acid and has been found by Israeli investigators in the debris of car bombs and other explosions blamed on Palestinian guerrillas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Israeli police.

Reid was also identified by al Qaeda fighters in U.S. custody as a trainee at the network's camps in Afghanistan, according to unconfirmed news reports.

At Friday's court hearing, prosecutors portrayed Reid as a petty thief vagrant with no job, no source of money and no permanent address, who nevertheless traveled around Europe, living in hotels in Paris for weeks before paying cash for Saturday's flight.

Reid has ``no verifiable address anywhere in the world,'' Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin Owyang said, as well as an extensive criminal record that included convictions for theft.

Reid's court-appointed lawyer, Tamar Birckhead, did not ask that he be released but questioned the FBI's Cronin about details of her affidavit.

Before the hearing, Birckhead told Reuters Reid was respectful and helpful in their meetings, which she declined to comment on further.

Dein, however, pointed to ``very strong'' evidence against him, in ruling: ``In addition to the defendant's violent and assaultive behavior toward the flight attendants, the evidence is that the defendant was trying to set off an explosive device on a flight with approximately 183 passengers and 14 crew members on board.''

``He acted with callous disregard for the safety of others, and, in fact, appears to have intended to cause them all serious harm, if not death,'' the judge said.

Copyright 2001. Reuters. All rights reserved.

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