Friday, June 17, 2005

BANGLADESH: Questions, Bitterness and Exile for Queens Girl in Terror Case

The story of how it happened - how Tashnuba, the pious, headstrong daughter of Muslim immigrants living in a neighborhood of tidy lawns and American flags, was labeled an imminent threat to national security - is still shrouded in government secrecy. After nearly seven weeks in detention, she was released in May on the condition that she leave the country immediately. Only immigration charges were brought against her and another 16-year-old New York girl, who was detained and released. Federal officials will not discuss the matter. But as the first terror investigation in the United States known to involve minors, the case reveals how deeply concerned the government is that a teenager might become a terrorist, and the lengths to which federal agents will go if they get even a whiff of that possibility. And it has drawn widespread attention, stoking the debate over the right balance between government vigilance and the protection of individual freedoms. It is not known what prompted the authorities to investigate Tashnuba, who says the accusations are false. But in a series of interviews - her first - she said the government had apparently discovered her visits to an Internet chat room where she took notes on sermons by a charismatic Islamic cleric in London, a sheik who has long been accused of encouraging suicide bombings.

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