Maine man not sure why he’s jailed, says Pakistani diplomat

Posted May 22, 2010, at 7:14 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:37 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — A Maine man detained during an investigation into the attempted car bombing of New York’s Times Square doesn’t know two other Pakistani men who were detained in the Boston area and is puzzled about why he has been jailed, a Pakistani diplomat said Friday.

Mohammad Shafiq Rahman of South Portland reported that he’s being treated well but he doesn’t understand why he has been jailed, said Barry Hoffman, Pakistan’s consul general in Boston, who met with Rahman in a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Portland.

Investigators have said Rahman and the two Massachusetts men are believed to have supplied funds to car bomb suspect Faisal Shahzad but may not have known how the money would be used.

All three are being held for administrative visa violations.

“He’s puzzled as to why he’s (at the Cumberland County Jail). It’s a very minor immigration violation,” Hoffman said.

Rahman, who was raised in a middle-class family in Karachi, Pakistan, entered the U.S. legally in 1999 with a work visa that has been renewed once, Hoffman said. Federal officials have said Rahman overstayed his current visa.

Hoffman said he didn’t delve into details of the U.S. government’s investigation but that Rahman denied knowing Aftab Khan and his relative Pir Khan, who were roommates in Watertown, Mass. A government attorney said Thursday that Shahzad’s phone number and name were found in Aftab Khan’s cell phone.

Rahman previously told his employer that he knew Shahzad when he lived in the New York area but hadn’t seen him in eight or nine years, said his boss, Larry Adlerstein.

Rahman is being kept away from the general population at the Cumberland County Jail, but he’s not in solitary confinement or isolation, Sheriff Mark Dion said. Dion said he was worried about what inmates may have heard or read about the Times Square investigation.

“My job is to keep him safe and I don’t want to take a chance,” Dion said.

Hoffman said Rahman is being treated well. Rahman was given a copy of the Quran by a jail minister and has been promised a meeting with an imam as well as a prayer rug, Hoffman said.

Rahman was a computer programmer working for Portland-based Artist and Craftsman Supply, a chain with stores from Maine to California. Adlerstein, the company’s owner, said it appears that Rahman has some family wealth in Pakistan, where many of his family members are professionals.

Adlerstein said he has advanced Rahman’s vacation pay to provide money for his wife to get by while he’s detained.

“We’re trying as his employer to help his family survive in the short term until they can get assets from Pakistan,” Adlerstein said.

Adlerstein said Rahman and his wife, Sara, married a couple of months ago. A person who answered Sara Rahman’s phone on Friday hung up without comment.

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