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Alleged al-Qaeda operative Yazid Sufaat admitted meeting two Arab nationals at his condominium in Kajang two years ago. However, he stressed the duo could not be involved in the Sept 11 attacks as they were amputees shopping for prosthetic legs in Malaysia.

The 37-year-old pathologist and former army captain told this to a three-member review panel at the Kamunting Detention Centre in Perak last Thursday. This was his second hearing.

Yazids first hearing was held on March 14. He is currently serving a two-year detention in Kamunting under the Internal Security Act.

The panel will hand a report to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong who would then decide whether he could be freed. Should the release not be approved, the panel will conduct another review six months from now.

Yazids defence was scheduled to be heard during his first hearing but this was postponed when he denied knowledge of certain remarks contained in a statement which police claimed was recorded during his interrogation.

When contacted, Yazids lawyer Saiful Izham Ramli said the detainee had presented his defence in a 29-page affidavit to the panel, answering each allegation made against him.

Asked how he would describe the second hearing, the lawyer replied, It was not really fair.

Saiful explained this was because police refused to provide them with certain privileged information which was submitted only to the panel.

Yazid was among 23 people rounded up by the police early this year for their alleged involvement in Jemaah Islamiah, said to be a secret cell under the so-called Malaysian Mujahidin Group (KMM) which is part of a regional network to overthrow Southeast Asian governments and set up an Islamic state in their respective countries.

Jemaah Islamiah was also said to have ties with the Osama bin Laden-helmed al-Qaeda terror network, which was blamed for the Sept 11 attacks on the United States.

The police has alleged that Yazid contributed money to Jemaah Islamiah to fund sectarian violence in the Ambon Islands of Indonesia, and against the Philippine army in Mindanao.

He was also said to have used his condominium to host al-Qaeda members whose identities were not revealed.

Apart from this, he was also alleged to have purchased four tonnes of ammonium nitrate to be made into bombs in the jihad or holy war against Christians in Ambon.

The international media, quoting Malaysian officials, claimed that two al-Qaeda members who were at Yazids house were later among the 17 who hijacked four jetliners, ploughing three of them into New Yorks World Trade Center and Washingtons Pentagon.

Purely business

However, Yazid explained to the review panel last week that he gave permission to Persatuan Al-Ehsan, a registered Islamic organisation of which he was a member, to use his condominium for its activities.

I do not know anything about the allegation that al-Qaeda members were staying in my condominium, and I demand proof from the police, he said in the affidavit, a copy of which was made available to malaysiakini .

I did bump into two Arabs whose legs were amputated at the condominiums swimming pool when I took my children there. The Arabs told me they came here to look for artificial legs.

The conversation lasted for less than five minutes. I left and never saw them again, he added.

Yazid also denied his involvement in any militant group and said Persatuan Al-Ehsan was a legal movement which only organised religious classes for its members.

We were not taught to rebel against or to oust the government (which is) legitimately elected by the people, which could prove detrimental to our beloved country, he said.

He added the money he donated to the organisation was to buy medicine, food, and clothes for Muslims who were suffering in the Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia.

On the allegation about purchasing ammonium nitrate, he said it was purely business where he sold the chemical to an Indonesian engineer who was running a quarry in Jawa Barat and had obtained a RM8,000-profit from the deal.

He stressed that he had consulted the local authorities on the matter and was told that no special permit was required for purchasing the chemical.

Had I knew that the chemical was for jihad , I would not have made a single sen of profit out of the deal, he said.

Yazid also criticised the media frenzy, particularly the foreign press, which kept quoting Malaysian officials to associate him with the al-Qaeda and the Sept 11 attacks.

The government should investigate who these officials are as they have tarnished the good name of the country. These officials have jeopardised national security and should indeed be put under the ISA, he said.

Responsible citizen

Yazid then appealed to be released unconditionally and pledged his loyalty to the country. He added that he only practises jihad in economic, education and social aspects.

I am not an enemy of the state but an asset to it... I sincerely wish to be a responsible citizen to the country and contribute to its well-beingness and safety. Instead, I was backstabbed by a handful of irresponsible people, he said.

All 23 Jemaah Islamiah members including Yazid are currently serving a two-year detention under the ISA. Their detention could be extended for another two years.

Despite Yazids firm denial, his lawyer Saiful told malaysiakini that chances are slim for Yazid to be released considering the current situation in the country, on which he refused to elaborate.

Following the Sept 11 attacks last year and the arrests of militant group members, the United States had praised Malaysia for its effort in battling international terrorism.