San Francisco: A Yemeni man arrested on a
San Francisco-bound plane repeatedly shouted "Allah Akbar" as
he tried to break into the cockpit, a court heard, as he made
an initial appearance.
Rageh Ahmed Mohammed Al-Murisi appeared sullen as a
federal judge told the California resident yesterday that he
was charged with interfering with a flight crew, a felony that
can carry up to 20 years in prison.
With an Arabic interpreter by his side, the
28-year-old listened as prosecutor Elise Becker told Judge
James Larson how he strode toward the front of American
Airlines Flight 1561 shortly before landing Sunday evening.
Murisi, a slight man with a short beard, "repeatedly
yelled `Allah Akbar` while attempting to enter the cockpit,"
and struggled as several passengers and a flight attendant
restrained him, she said.
An affidavit filed by a federal air marshal says the
flight attendant first thought Murisi was confused as he
approached the cockpit and the attendant twice tried to direct
him to the restroom.
Murisi then made eye contact with the flight
attendant, according to the affidavit, and rammed the cockpit
door with his shoulder.
Becker focused on the "Allah Akbar" phrase, not
mentioned in the one-page affidavit, as evidence of Murisi`s
violent intentions. The words are Arabic for "God is great"
and are commonly used by Muslims, especially in prayer.
Becker said the phrase is often used by terrorists and
is evidence that Al-Murisi is a danger to the community and
should be kept in custody during court proceedings.
She cited examples of extremists using the phrase
before committing acts of terror, such as the hijackers who
took over United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, and
a US Army major who opened fire on a Texas military base in
"The significance of the phrase has come up in recent
instances," she said, adding that "the defendant poses a
The government says Murisi began his trip in New York
and switched planes in Chicago. He has family near San
Francisco, but prosecutors said his relatives did not know he
Al-Murisi traveled with no carry-on or checked bags,
Becker said. He carried only $47 in cash, a number of expired
and current New York and California ID cards, an Apple
charger, sunglasses and two post-dated checks.
Becker also emphasised that Murisi, a native of Yemen,
has a wife and child in the country. He entered the United
States legally in January 2010, she said, and has a permanent
resident green card.