Friday, March 17, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Algerian pleads guilty but still faces inquiry

Seattle Times staff reporter

An Algerian man who pleaded guilty yesterday in Seattle to immigration violations remains under investigation in New York by federal authorities looking into an international terrorist bomb conspiracy.

Abdel Hakim Tizegha, 29, is scheduled to be sentenced June 2. He faces up to two years in federal prison after pleading guilty to illegally re-entering the United States near Blaine. He was arrested Dec. 24 in Bellevue.

As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors said they will recommend that Tizegha receive a term on the low end of federal sentencing guidelines.

However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Hamilton told U.S. Magistrate John Weinberg that the agreement involves only the federal district in Seattle. Tizegha still is being investigated by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, and they have traveled to Washington to question him, Hamilton said.

Ralph Hurvitz, Tizegha's attorney, also acknowledged that his client was under investigation in connection with "some sort of conspiracy. . . . I'm just waiting to hear from (New York) on what they intend to do."

A federal grand jury in New York is examining an alleged international terrorist conspiracy that investigators say was cracked with the arrest of Ahmed Ressam. Ressam is an Algerian accused of smuggling explosives into Washington on a ferry from Victoria on Dec. 14.

Immigration officials picked up Tizegha on Dec. 24 in Bellevue. Authorities have linked him through telephone records to Abdel Ghani Meskini, who prosecutors say had traveled from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Seattle to meet Ressam.

Meskini and another man, Mokhtar Haourari, have been indicted in New York for allegedly aiding Ressam.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kelly in New York - the prosecutor overseeing the massive international terrorist investigation - declined yesterday to discuss Tizegha's role in his investigation.

Tizegha first arrived in the United States as a stowaway aboard a ship in Boston in 1993. He applied for political asylum, but his petition was denied in 1997 and he lost an appeal in 1999. He moved to Canada and sought asylum there as well. He sneaked back across the border near Blaine in November.

Ressam, meanwhile, faces a July 7 trial on terrorism and conspiracy charges in Los Angeles, where a federal judge moved the case because of pre-trial publicity.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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