USF student held in S.C. is innocent, family says

08/13/07 Mitch E. Perry
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On Friday, the family of one of the USF students caught with bomb-making materials during a traffic stop visited him in prison in South Carolina.

Mariam Megahed is the sister of 21-year-old Yousef Megahed, one of the two men charged with possession of explosives.

Sherriff deputies in Berkeley County, South Carolina, pulled over Megahed and Ahmed Mohammed for speeding a week ago Saturday.

According to reports, officers became suspicious as they approached the car, because the men quickly put away a laptop computer and, when questioned, couldn't immediately say what they were doing in the area or where they were headed.

Officers searched the trunk and found what the students say were just fireworks, but authorites say are materials that could build pipe bombs.

A bomb squad reportedly performed an operation to break apart, or "disrupt," one section of PVC pipe, which authorities said contained a "suspicious substance."

The case has garnered extensive local and national attention – and suspicions. Last week, one Tampa radio station featured several callers assuming that the two students were up to no good.

Ahmed Bedier from the Florida chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, or CAIR is acting as a spokesman for the family. He’s also a host of a weekly program on WMNF, and says that that lot of opinions have been formed based on wild misinformation.

When asked what the family believes was in the trunk, Bedier said possibly a portable gas can, as well as charcoal, lighter fluid and a barbecue grill.

Yousef’s father, Samir Megahed says he has just hired an attorney and is activily discussing their next steps.

Megahed is originally from Kuwait, Mohammed from Egypt.

At a news conference last week, Bedier said the students' heritage and the fact they they are Muslims was playing a role in blowing the case out of proportion. On Saturday, he stood by those comments, saying he was not criticizing the Berkeley County police for arresting the students for speeding – but did think the reaction has been excessive.

The FBI has assumed responsibility for the investigation and the two could face federal charges.

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