SPENCER MICHELS: Mostly hidden from news cameras, Richard Reid arrived today at the U.S. District court in Boston for his bail bond hearing. The 28-year-old Reid, also known as Abdel Rahim, has been charged with intimidation and interference with a flight crew. If convicted, that charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, but he could be charged later with other offenses.
During the hearing, prosecutors argued Reid is a flight risk with a long criminal record. Outside, prosecutors said an FBI agent testified Reid was carrying a "homemade bomb" made of the explosive TATP.
PROSECUTOR: The explosive material could have caused damage to the extent to a hole on the fuselage based on where the sneakers would have been put on the plane.
SPENCER MICHELS: U.S. Circuit Judge Judith Dein ruled Reid should be held with out bond until his trial. Reid was arrested Saturday after he allegedly tried to ignite plastic explosives hidden in his sneakers while traveling on an American Airlines flight from Paris. The Boeing 767 carrying 183 passengers and a crew of 14 was headed to Miami, but diverted to Boston after Reid was overpowered by half a dozen passengers and crewmembers.
KWAME JAMES, passenger: He was so intent on doing what he had to do. He just kept on fighting. We just had to hold him down and it was kind of like he was having a seizure. He was possessed.
SPENCER MICHELS: Reid, the son of a Jamaican father and British mother, was carrying a British passport and checked no luggage. Today, his mother spoke to reporters outside her home south of London today.
LESLEY HUGHES, Reid's Mother: Other than what I have heard or read in the media, I have no knowledge of this matter. As any mother would be, I am obviously deeply shocked and concerned at the allegations being made against Richard. We need some time to come to terms with the current situation and would ask you now to leave us alone and to respect the difficulty of our position. Thank you.
SPENCER MICHELS: U.S. investigators are reviewing reports from foreign authorities indicating Reid apparently traveled extensively in the last few months. He visited Israel this summer. He passed through Egypt and also Amsterdam in the Netherlands. He picked up a new passport in Brussels on December 7.
Reid then reportedly took a train to Paris, where he paid cash at this travel agency for a one-way ticket to Miami. Officials have confirmed Reid attended the same London mosque as Zacharias Moussaoui, who has been charged with conspiracy in the September 11 terrorist attacks. An Islamic leader from the mosque where Reid worshipped has warned that other Muslims could have been recruited in Britain to carry out terrorist attacks.
ABDUL HAQQ BAKER, Chairman, Brixton Mosque: And this is what we have warned the authorities of for a number of years now. We have said they are sitting right here on our doorstep.
SPENCER MICHELS: No date has been set for Reid's trial.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And for more on the story, we're joined from London by Marc Champion of the Wall Street Journal. Thanks for being with us, Marc.
MARC CHAMPION: Thank you, Elizabeth.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What have you found out in your reporting about Richard Reid also known as Abdel Rahim?
MARC CHAMPION: Well, we know that he converted to Islam while he was in jail. He was in jail for a couple of years for minor crimes. And we know that he was then recruited by extremists while he was going to a mosque and learning about Islam, trying to learn Arabic so he could read the Koran. And thereafter he disappeared, in about 1998.
He disappeared from the mosque all together shortly after he had made it clear to the leaders of the mosque there that he now had rather different beliefs from theirs. And from 1998 on, we don't know exactly what happened to him. His mother told the mosque that she believed he went to Pakistan to learn Arabic in a school there in Pakistan. But he may then have gone to Afghanistan. We just don't know.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. I'll come back to that. First you, about the prison experience. Tell us about people converting to Islam in prison. Is this common?
MARC CHAMPION: It is - it is certainly not unknown. Obviously the numbers you're talking about in any given case when you are talking about extremists, et cetera, they're always rather small, but there is a substantial Muslim population in British prisons and there are quite a number of youngsters who do convert in jail.
They find it a structured religion that gives them some sort of option. In fact they're quite encouraged. There are preachers who go to the prisons and there's no problems there. But there have been three Imans who have been removed since September, since September 11 for preaching against America, for preaching extremist views. So there are some problems there.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Tell us a little more about the mosque. You have been talking to people at the mosque, I understand.
MARC CHAMPION: Yes, it's a very, very simple mosque. It's in a converted residential building, pretty run down. And it's an unusual mosque because it's run by converts. The guy who runs it, Abdel Haqq Baker is himself an Afro-Caribbean who converted about 12 years ago to Islam.
He has now been running the mosque for about eight years. The average age of the mosque is very young; it's about 30. And a lot of the-- a large proportion of the people there are either transients or they like Richard Reid, they are converts.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And he, Baker, had complained about extremists, people who termed "extremists" coming to the mosque and trying to convert people, is that right?
MARC CHAMPION: That's correct. There are a number of very well known high profile radical clerics who are based in London. Many of them are political refugees who are wanted for alleged crimes in various North African and Arab states.
And some of these clerics do run their own, not mosques, not necessarily mosques, but they run their own classes and seminars and they encourage some of the young men to go to them. Now the allegation of Baker is that in those seminars, they're not just preaching a different style of Islam. They're preaching a rather violent style that encourages Jihad and describes Britain, for example, as a place of Jihad, as a place of war.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And the police did not respond to those complaints, is that right?
MARC CHAMPION: Well, he doesn't say that, but he says that all the police did was to say that they would monitor the situation. And what you have to recognize is that until very recently, British law was relatively lax and Britain has been criticized for this. Since the 1970s, London has taken over from Beirut as the sort of capital of political dissidents for the Arab world.
Almost every group from the Arab world from the Muslim world, that is in opposition to their governments, has some sort of representation here. At one time so did Osama bin Laden. But what Baker was alleging is that these people were allowed to do things which, for example, in France, they would have landed up in jail. But here the laws did not permit the police to move in and just pick these people up and put them in jail because they hadn't actually committed any crime under British law. That situation is now changing.
Very recently in the last couple of weeks, the British government has brought in a new emergency law, which allows it to detain indefinitely and without trial any immigrant that they suspect of being a national security threat.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Marc, yesterday you and your colleague, David Cloud, reported about some of the evidence. You reported on some of the evidence that links Richard Reid with al-Qaida. Tell us about that.
MARC CHAMPION: Well, there is actually very little evidence at the moment. What we have is some U.S. officials have said that a couple of the al-Qaida prisoners that are now in U.S. custody have said that they recognized Richard Reid from photographs that they were shown.
Now the officials at the same time cautioned that these people may just be saying what they think the investigators want to hear, and that their testimony has not been corroborated. So we can't be sure of that. And that is, as far as we know, the only evidence that we have that he was linked to al-Qaida. It's very early days--.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And it came from prisoners in Afghanistan and also on ships?
MARC CHAMPION: Yes, some of these prisoners are being held on U.S. ships in the ocean.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Marc, finally, what has the head of the mosque, Abdel Haqq Baker said about Richard Reid? What is he like as a person? Does he think he could have pulled this off alone?
MARC CHAMPION: No. He was pretty adamant about that. He said he was actually a very amiable rather simple young man, very eager to learn, very well liked, got on well with everybody in the mosque, which was rather different from his-- from another person who was at the mosque, Zacarias Moussaoui, another person who's been in custody in the U.S. at the moment in connection with the September 11 bombings.
Moussaoui was said to be very sharp, rather arrogant, very aggressive. He tried to recruit people himself, according to Baker. But Richard Reid he said was very different; he was much more tentative, much more amiable, happy go lucky sort of character. And he said that he thought there was absolutely no way that he would have this sophistication to pull off an attempt like this.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Did he say whether Zacarias Moussaoui knew Richard Reid?
MARC CHAMPION: He said it was highly likely that he did. They were both there at the same time. They were interested in the same beliefs. The mosque is not all that large. So he did not personally know. He hadn't seen them talking together, spending time together, but he said it was highly likely.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Marc Champion, thanks for being with us.
MARC CHAMPION: Thank you very much.