By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau | 12/19/2012 11:24 AM
POMONA, California – It’s been nearly a month since the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested Ralph DeLeon, Miguel Santana and Arifeen David Gojali, accusing them of terrorism, and members of the Masjid al-Sabireen Cham American Muslim Community mosque where the three worshiped at are still trying to make sense of the situation.
One of the Mosque leaders, who goes by Zakariya described DeLeon and Santana as recent converts, while Gojali grew up with the mosque.
“They come to pray here and go, but whenever they are here, they are very nice kids. Very respectful. They never say any word, I never hear anything from them,” he recalled.
Like other members of the mosque, Zakariya questions the methods of the confidential source, a convicted drug trafficker, who reportedly tipped off the FBI in exchange for $250,000 and immigration benefits.
The confidential source filed over 70 pages worth of testimony which includes alleged conversations between DeLeon, Santana and Gojali about joining a fourth suspect, Soheil Omar Kabir in Afghanistan so they can carry out violent jihad against Americans as members of a terror group.
Some members claim the informant would often pay for DeLeon and Santana’s meals and trips.
“I feel so bad and I don’t believe these kids are doing like the FBI is saying. I hope they find the root, if people tried to put words in them or try to plant it for them to say something. I want justice for the kids,” said Zakariya.
New Los Angeles Philippine consul general Helen Dela Vega is keeping close watch on the case of DeLeon, who remains a Philippine citizen because he was too old to apply for U.S. citizenship with the rest of family.
Consulate officials have visited Deleon twice since his arrest and attended his arraignment earlier this month. They plan on visiting him again next month.
He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years if he is convicted. Under immigration laws, a permanent resident would also be deported if convicted.
“This is really part of our function, and responsibility to ensure the interests of our nationals are protected,” she explained.
Kabir has been extradited to the U.S. and is scheduled for an appearance in Federal court on December 19th, while DeLeon, Gojali, and Santana are due back in court next month.