Guyana Detains US Muslim Cleric in Terrorism Probe

May 19, 2011 - 2:45 PM

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) — Akbar Muhammad, a U.S. Muslim cleric visiting the South American country of Guyana, was detained Thursday on suspicion of ties to drugs and terrorism, according to police.

Officers raided the Princess Hotel in the capital of Georgetown and took Muhammad to the department's headquarters for questioning, said Seelal Persaud, assistant police commissioner.

"Based on the information we have, he is involved in drugs and terrorism," Persaud told The Associated Press. He declined further comment and no further details were immediately available.

Muhammad has been a spokesman for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, with whom he has worked since the 1960s.

He arrived in Guyana earlier this week from Illinois and was expected to attend a rally on Thursday afternoon organized by black activists in the mining town of Linden just south of the capital.

Muhammad has visited Guyana several times in recent years but had never been detained by authorities during previous visits.

It is unclear if U.S. federal authorities, including the FBI, are investigating Muhammad.

"The FBI would not be able to comment on nor confirm information provided by another country," said FBI spokeswoman Kathy Wright.

Messages left with the Illinois-based Nation of Islam National Center and with the Truth Establishment Institute, which handles speaking engagements for Muhammad, were not returned.

Muhammad has faced previous legal troubles.

In January 2009, his supporters gathered in Chicago to raise money for legal fees following an FBI raid on his house, according to a report in The Final Call, a newspaper founded by Farrakhan.

According to court records, Muhammad pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud in April 2009 and received a five-year probation in September 2009. He was accused of using different names to obtain lines of credit and mortgages from 1983 through 2007.

Chicago defense attorney Lewis Myers Jr., who represented Muhammad, did not return a call for comment.

Muhammad grew up in New York City and also has lived in Chicago and St. Louis. He helped Farrakhan during Jesse Jackson's first presidential campaign run, and he is the international representative for the Nation of Islam, according to a biography released by the Truth Establishment Institute.

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Associated Press Writer Danica Coto contributed from San Juan, Puerto Rico.