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Youssef Megahed's family visits him at South Florida immigration detention center

TAMPA — Through the glass, Youssef Megahed looked like he was all right.

But that doesn't make sitting in jail, days after a jury acquitted him of federal explosives charges, any easier to take, his family said.

"It's tough to see this happening all over again," said Yahia Megahed, Youssef's brother, while driving back to Tampa on Sunday afternoon.

He and his family made the three-hour trek to the Glades County Detention Center in Moore Haven, where U.S. immigration officials are holding his 23-year-old brother.

It was the first time the family had seen him since officials surrounded Megahed in a Wal-Mart parking lot April 6, where he had been grocery shopping with his father.

The family spoke with him for two hours, by phone and with a thick pane of glass between them.

"He's doing well," Yahia Megahed said. "He feels this will be over soon and he's looking forward to being released, whether he stays here or has to leave. He doesn't want to be in jail."

Immigration officials have charged him with possessing items that could be assembled into a destructive device.

He was found not guilty April 3 on a similar charge in federal court. Jurors acquitted him of illegal transportation of explosive materials and illegal possession of a destructive device, charges that could have each carried 10 years in prison.

On Sunday, the family discussed choosing a lawyer for the latest legal battle. They have met with several attorneys, and plan to announce their choice today.

They said dozens of immigration lawyers have offered free legal representation to the former University of South Florida student.

The family also told Megahed that a news crew from Egyptian national television came for interviews. The segment is expected to air for viewers in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East.

Since his brother's arrest, Yahia Megahed said, the family has been trying to make appointments with Florida senators and other Congress members. They have also started an Internet petition.

"We hope they can put pressure on the immigration officials and resolve it quickly," Yahia Megahed said. "Or at least get him out on bond. It doesn't make sense to hold him."

At the Glades County facility, Megahed stays with 96 other people from all over the world waiting there on immigration charges. They live in one big room, which he described as a hangar.

"They have beds in there, and it's where they wake and sleep," he said. "There's not much privacy but it's better than solitary confinement."

With visitation every five days, the family plans to visit Youssef as much as they can. That's where they'll be on Friday.

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at cbroadwater@sptimes.com, or (813) 661-2454.

Youssef Megahed's family visits him at South Florida immigration detention center 04/12/09 [Last modified: Monday, April 13, 2009 7:09am]
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