Youssef Megahed acquittal gives hope to father of another student

TAMPA — News of Youssef Megahed's acquittal on explosives charges have spread to Morocco, offering regret, as well as hope, to one man whose son was swept up in the highly publicized case.

Karim Moussaoui, 29, served six months in federal prison for violating his student visa by posing for a picture with a firearm. The sentence came after Moussaoui's ties to fellow University of South Florida student Megahed were unearthed during a terrorism investigation.

In an e-mail received Saturday by the Times, Moussaoui's father, Hamou Moussaoui, said the outcome of his son's case would have been different if Megahed were acquitted sooner.

"The least thing my son could have got is Youssef Megahed's testimony that the gun my son posed with was unloaded," he wrote.

"Yes of course the verdict would have been different."

He also thought his son's treatment at trial would have been different.

Moussaoui told the judge that he did not fire the gun he posed with, but U.S. District Judge James Whittemore did not believe his story.

"At least my son won't have to be treated as a liar, and called all names in court; the innocence of my son would have been easier to conclude," Hamou Moussaoui said. The Moussaoui family is appealing the verdict. "I am still confident the 11th circuit will prove his innocence, of course everything comes with a price, life is not fair, but that's the process," Hamou Moussaoui said.

Megahed and fellow student Ahmed Mohammed were arrested after officers stopped them in South Carolina for speeding in 2007 and found PVC pipes stuffed with potassium nitrate and sugar.

FBI agents delved into both men's backgrounds and recovered a photograph of Moussaoui posing with the weapon when they searched Megahed's computer. Also, surveillance footage captured Moussaoui in 2007 shouldering a rifle inside a gun range. He had gone there with Megahed, a legal resident who was not prohibited from having a firearm. Authorities found a YouTube video of Mohamed giving instructions on how to turn a toy remote into a detonator. Mohammed took a plea deal in December and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or rmitchell@sptimes.com.

Youssef Megahed acquittal gives hope to father of another student 04/04/09 [Last modified: Sunday, April 5, 2009 7:22am]

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