Tell me a little bit about [Wadih]. I read that he's Lebanese.|
His parents were Christian. He converted to Islam when he was 14 in Kuwait.
His father had a government position in Kuwait. I believe it was in education,
I'm not quite sure. And his father was very irate, and he was more or less
tossed out of the house.
Because he converted to Islam?
Yeah. And he came under the aegis of a sheik in Kuwait who paid for his
education, including the university education. When he graduated, the money
stopped. And that's when he to start really scrambling around for money and
trying to get jobs here and there.
How did you meet him?
I met him through the imam of this mosque here [in Tucson]. ... He wrote a
letter to my daughter because he had heard that there was this very good Muslim
girl here who might make a nice wife. It was an arrangement. He came and
visited with her and she was pleased with him and he of course was pleased with
her and after about a month or so, they married. And she loves him very much,
and he loves her, and they have seven children.
Was he a little impractical?
Sometimes. Wadih is very human. ... What you read in the paper is not Wadih.
... If I can give you an analogy of an old car going up the street leaving nuts
and bolts all the up the street, that's Wadih. He'd buy presents and then he'd
leave for the plane and leave the presents behind on the desk. He could be
very disorganized. He's very, very human.
He's not a calculated mastermind?
Oh, God, no. He was dead set against anything against Islam because he wanted
to build up the reputation of Islam, not have it linked to terrorists and all
that stuff. Killing women and children is anathema, you don't do that. You
don't do that.
Well, they say he procured weapons for somebody involved in the World Trade
I think one or two of his friends were afraid in New York, ... they wanted a
gun or something for self protection. ... That was all of it.
So, how do you understand what's happened so far?
I don't. I think maybe the government has had a lot of misinformation and
they're working on what they believe is true. But to my way of thinking, it's
fabrication. It's totally wrong. It's not Wadih.
What kind of father is he?
He's a wonderful father. A devoted father. He would wake up early every
morning, said [his] prayer ... . He'd make breakfast for them all. He'd teach
the older children Koran. ... He spends a lot of time with the children and he
misses them terribly and they're becoming very bitter that the father is not
there. My daughter has seven children. One is a babe in arms, and Wadih was
denied to even talk to his children for a long time. And that's terrible. To
me that is not American justice. This is not the way we do things.
He has [not] been convicted of anything.
No. They say he lied to a federal Grand Jury. So did Clinton. But Clinton is
still in the White House and Wadih is under 23 hour [solitary confinement]. He
can't talk to anybody. ... He's allowed supposedly 3 phone calls a month to my
daughter. She's lucky to get one. Sometimes letters are few and far between
and she'll 3 or 4 at a clip. And one time they sent the letters to her and one
page was missing, you know. It's not well. He doesn't even have access to a
visitor list. He can't even see anybody. My daughter can't even see him. And
it's been six months. ... And she's now living in Texas waiting by the phone
everyday. And that's terrible. And that's why I'm here.
Because I want to show the world that Wadih is not a terrorist. He's not a
criminal. Maybe he ran a traffic light or something, but he's always been a
very good boy. I say boy, because he's my son-in-law and he loves my daughter.
He's devastated by this whole thing. His last letter to me was pitiful. ... He
sounded very depressed. ... He felt like things weren't going for him well at
all. He wants a new lawyer and since he can't talk to anybody, he can't ask
for a new lawyer. He can't call anybody. He said his lawyer is a nice fellow,
but he sees him once every couple of weeks and that's it. ... And he wants
somebody, a good strong lawyer to plead his case. ...
[Did Wadih] talk to the FBI in Nairobi?
Yeah, he did.
And he talked to them in Arlington.
And he talked to them in New York.
[Yes]. ... He talked to them a lot. ...
He doesn't sound like somebody who has anything to hide.
No. He's always been so aboveboard, I mean, I don't understand it. Yes, he
probably knew a lot of these people. Yes, he probably did. But he knows
everybody. ... Guilt by association. And that's not right. In this country
you're supposed to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty. Wadih has not
been convicted of anything. And they have even denied him bail. ...
[What was Wadih's role in Pakistan and Afghanistan during the Afghan-Soviet
... He delivered books and writing materials, and he was a teacher. Some of
the people there are very uneducated, very illiterate and his goal was to teach
them how to read and write and study Koran. ...
[So] the role he was playing there was more as a literacy teacher or
Yeah, to help teach. Bring books to the Afghan children, to help teach them
how to read and write. Also he was a translator. ...
... He wasn't there as a fighter or somebody?
No. Wadih has a little right arm. He cannot physically do a lot of things a
soldier could do. ... His heart may have been in it, but he was more of a
teacher, translator, go-between. ... He was a peacemaker. You know, I'll be
honest, a lot of Arabs are hot-headed, and he would keep the peace between
[When did Wadih and your daughter move to Sudan?]
They moved to Sudan ... the spring of '92. ...
Did he tell you why he was going?
To get a better job. ... When he was here [in Tucson], he couldn't get a job
that paid enough money ... even though he had a degree from University of
So he got a job offer from Khartoum?
... I guess, I'm not quite sure. But he went there because it was a salary
job offer. My daughter hated it. She hated being stuck in Khartoum and he was
[traveling] all over to sell these samples, and translating this, or doing this
You understood his job in the Sudan more as a salesman, a translator,
Yeah, translator, salesman, and my daughter was instrumental in saying,
"That's enough of this, let's get out of here." And one thing that worries my
daughter so much is that every place they ever went, they always went
immediately to the US Embassy and registered. They never slipped from sight.
They wanted the government to know they were in case something ever
Now wait a second, this alleged terrorist ... would go to the US Embassy and
Wadih did. ... He's always let the government know where he was. He never
hid his activities. ... And [when] the baby was born in Nairobi, they
registered the baby there with the American government. ...
Because they were all American citizens?
Exactly. Wadih's an American.
So the idea of him endorsing this fatwah that says kill Americans and
Impossible. As my daughter said, she said, "My God, I'm an American, the
children are Americans, Wadih is an American. How could he do this?"
Why did they move to Nairobi from [Sudan]?
[My daughter] ... has asthma. She was sick a lot in Sudan, and she felt
very, very isolated. It's also a very backward country, and I've learned since
then that this so-called mastermind terrorist, Osama bin Laden did a lot for
that country. So I guess, I guess he wasn't quite as horrible as everybody
portrays. Although, if he indeed was behind the bombings, I think that's
But he was your son-in-law's boss. I mean--
At that time when he was in Sudan. But when he went to Nairobi, he no longer
was. He broke with him. There were a lot of personal reasons why he broke with
him and [my daughter] threatened to leave Wadih if they didn't get out of
Because bin Laden wanted him to take a second wife, and [she] said, more or
less, "You do that and I'm history." So he acceded to his wife's wishes and
stopped his association with bin Laden and went to Nairobi. ...
So when you went ... to visit your daughter in Nairobi, were you surprised
at what happened once you arrived there?
Oh, why, yes. I arrived in Nairobi the evening of one day and not even 12
hours later there was a knock on the outer gate. And they said, "Open the
gates." They came into the house, it was the Police Department of Nairobi and
American FBI agents. ... [They] said they were looking for stolen property and
they searched the whole house and they came out of the bedrooms with Wadih's
PC, and they took it. ... He had all these little papers all over the desk, his
notebooks and other personal papers, his little ledgers, his address books.
They scooped them all up and took them. Every single one. All his business
contracts, everything. ...
And Wadih wasn't there.
He was not there. In fact he had gone into Afghanistan ... because he was
working as a gem dealer then, and also in conjunction with Africa Help [a
charitable organization] ... . [Later, when he came back, he] hit the Nairobi
airport, [and] the FBI and the Nairobi police were there too. And they took
him away and questioned him. In the meantime, they spoke to us that night and
told us it would probably be best if we got back to the United States right
away and they told my daughter they could arrange for her to be on the next
flight out. ... They said it might not be safe to live here. She got
frightened. She's got all these little children ... so she says, "No, I'm not
leaving without my husband."
Did they say why it wouldn't be safe? ... That you might be better
[If] we went back in the United States. Something might happen here. ... I'm
afraid I don't quite remember the words but the inference was plain.
[Something might happen to her children or herself next time].
Did they mention anybody's name, like Osama bin Laden or anything like
No. I don't remember that. If they had it went over my head, I didn't hear
...Wadih comes from the airport. ... He's been interrogated. ... Didn't you
say then, "What's going on?"
He says they wanted information about some of his friends and people that
they want to know if he knows. ...
But did he say why they wanted to know?
No. He never said anything. Either that or I didn't ask. I was too upset.
[But] it's your daughter, it's your grandchildren. Something is going on,
and it's in stolen property.
Well, I never for one minute thought it was stolen property. I thought they
were checking something out. God knows what. I don't know. I don't about any
cell. I didn't even hear the name of Osama bin Laden at that point. I didn't
know anything. ...
Is it possible they're holding him because they hope that he'll testify,
that he'll tell them about everybody else since he knows [so many
That is a possibility. That is a very distinct possibility. I can't deny
that he didn't know probably know these people. He probably did know them. As
to protecting them, I don't know if he'd go that far, but I don't think he
would volunteer anything he didn't know just to save his own neck ... .
Did you ever meet anybody named Odeh?
No, I don't even know who that is.
How about a [Muhamed Ali]?
Yeah, we were friends with his wife...
And Mr. bin Franklin, a neighbor.
... Oh yes, [he was a] close friend. He's an American citizen. ...
And there was an Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani? You know that man?
No, I don't know him. I never met him. Just bin Franklin and also Muhamed
... How does he know all these people? Why is he associated with all these
people? It's just because of who he is?
He knows everybody. I mean everywhere he goes people know him and they
respect him because of his Islam. He's a strict Muslim. ...
[Is he] an extremist?
He's not an extremist. No, he is not. But he could know people all the way
along the spectrum. He knows everybody. That's his problem maybe. He just
knows everybody. He just tries to make peace. ...
Did he ever talk with you about things like Somalia or bin Laden, once you
knew his name, or anything like that?
No. He told me about the big road they built from Khartoum to some other
place. ... [He] told me about his vast holdings of agricultural farms. ... He
never said anything about him being a terrorist. He was a very brave freedom
fighter in Afghanistan. ... I got the impression he was a good man until I
read this in the papers. ...
Is it possible that [Wadih is] everything you say, a good man, family man,
but also believes strongly enough to get involved at least on the edges of some
of these activities?
Anything is possible. ... I can't look into his heart. From what I see of
him by his works, I judge him a good man and from what he has said, I judge him
to be a good man. I can't see him having any part of killing any innocent
women and children. I can see him fighting in a war against soldiers, yes, but
bombing buildings, never. ... But as to some of the people, his acquaintances,
I don't know. I can't answer to that. ... And he would have to tell me himself
that he did certain things for me to believe it, otherwise, I would never
believe it because I trust him. ...