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Lawyer: Saudi man’s pressure cooker for food, not bombs

    The Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus, Mich. is shown in this Dec. 26, 2009 file photo. Hussain Al Kwawahir, arrested Saturday at the airport after lying about why he was traveling with a pressure cooker, is set to be arraigned today in federal court in Detroit.

DETROIT >> A Saudi man arrested at Detroit Metropolitan Airport after federal agents accused him of lying about why he was traveling with a pressure cooker knew nothing about the device’s use in Boston Marathon bombings, his attorney said today.

Hussain Al Khawahir brought the pressure cooker at the request of his nephew, a college student in Ohio he planned to visit, defense lawyer James Howarth said. He said the device was to be used for cooking, not bomb-making.

Two pressure cookers were used to set off shrapnel-packed bombs in Boston last month that killed three people and injured more than 260 others.

“He doesn’t know about Boston,” Howarth said after joining Al Khawahir during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Detroit. The lawyer said a pressure cooker is now a “red-ticket item” because of the Boston bombings, but noted that, “carrying a pressure cooker does not make you a criminal in the United States.”

Al Khawahir, who was arrested Saturday at the airport, waived his right to a detention hearing today, meaning he will remain jailed until a probable cause hearing on May 28.

Howarth said there was no benefit for his client to post bond, because federal immigration officials are separately holding him, and he would get no credit for the time he’s served if released to their custody.

Al Khawahir appeared in a jail uniform and ankle chains, and spoke to the judge through an interpreter.

His nephew, Nasser Almarzooq, told The Associated Press on Monday that the arrest was a misunderstanding and that he wanted the high-quality device to cook lamb. Almarzooq, who is studying mechanical engineering at the University of Toledo, about 55 miles south of Detroit, said his uncle was coming to visit him for a couple weeks.

A criminal complaint alleges that Al Khawahir arrived at the airport Saturday on a flight from Saudi Arabia via Amsterdam, and that he told agents he was visiting his nephew. He originally said he brought the pressure cooker with him because pressure cookers aren’t sold in America, then said his nephew had bought one but it “was cheap” and broke after one use, according to the complaint.

“There’s no discrepancy — that’s garbage,” Howarth said of the government’s version of Al Khawahir’s story, adding his client merely corrected himself. “I’m afraid some overzealous agents were looking for anything. … I applaud their vigilance but not their common sense.”

Agents said they also noticed at least one page was missing from Al Khawahir’s passport from Saudi Arabia. He told them he didn’t how it had been removed, and said the document had been locked in a box that only he, his wife and three children have access to in his home, according to the complaint.

Howarth added that Al Khawahir told him that it’s common for Saudis to travel with pressure cookers.

“They don’t want to use somebody else’s utensils,” he said.

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