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Terror Charges Dropped Vs. Texas Men

A Michigan prosecutor asked a judge Wednesday to dismiss the terror charges filed against three Texas men who sparked a security scare after they were arrested with nearly 1,000 cell phones in their van.

A day earlier, a prosecutor in Ohio dropped similar charges against two other men who arrested there with a dozen cell phones, passenger lists and $11,000 in cash.

In Michigan, Tuscola County Prosecutor Mark E. Reene said he was leaving the prosecution to the federal government, which he said had filed its own charges against the men.

An attorney for the three, all Palestinian-Americans, said the federal charges involved counterfeiting, not terrorism.

After the arrests last week, the Coast Guard increased its patrols of Michigan's five-mile-long Mackinac Bridge, and Reene's office charged the three with collecting or providing materials for terrorist acts and surveillance of a vulnerable target for terrorist purposes.

But on Monday, the FBI announced that it had no information linking the three to any known terrorist group. State officials also said they had determined the bridge linking the state's upper and lower peninsulas was not in imminent danger.

Federal authorities had warned local officials earlier this year to be on the lookout for anyone buying large numbers of prepaid cell phones. Officials have said the phone can be used for various illegal acts, including as detonation devices, selling them to finance terrorism and using them for terrorist communications.

Supporters of the men in both cases said they were simply buying phones to resell them at a profit.

"This is a clear indication of racial profiling: Picking someone up and holding them for days and trying to find something to charge them with. It's supposed to be the other way around," said Nabih Ayad, an attorney representing the three men arrested in Michigan.

Adham Othman, 21, of Dallas, and Louai Othman, 23, and Maruan Muhareb, 18, of Mesquite, Texas, were arrested Friday in Caro.

Ayad called the charges against them "outrageous" and accused state and federal officials of "scratching each other's backs" by shifting jurisdictions.

Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Detroit, said she could not discuss any federal charges against the three men, but she said they were scheduled to appear later in Wednesday in federal court in Bay City.

Ayad said his clients were being charged with two counts: conspiracy to defraud consumers with counterfeit goods and intent to promote the carrying on of a specific unlawful activity, which alleged they conducted financial transactions involving the proceeds from counterfeit goods.

Louai Othman's wife, Lina Odeh, has said the men were buying the phones to sell to a man in Dallas for a profit of about $5 per phone. She said they were in Michigan because so many people in the Dallas area are doing the same thing that the phones are often sold out.

In the Ohio case, the two arrested men, both from Dearborn, Mich., were released from jail Tuesday.

Authorities had arrested them on a traffic violation in Marietta, Ohio, on Aug. 8 and said they found airplane passenger lists and information on airport security checkpoints along with the cash and cell phones in the car.

The men initially were charged with supporting terrorism after buying large numbers of cell phones. Those charges were dropped, but the men still face misdemeanor counts stemming from allegations that they lied to deputies when questioned.