BOISE - Fazliddin Kurbanov, the Uzbeki man facing federal terrorism charges in Idaho, entered not-guilty pleas to all charges this morning, speaking through a Russian interpreter.
The 30-year-old Boise resident, dressed in yellow-and-white striped scrubs stamped “Ada County Jail” on the back, faces three charges in Idaho: Conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and to a designated foreign terrorist organization, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan; and possession of an explosive device.
Kurbanov also faces a federal charge in Utah for allegedly conducting a bomb-making demonstration in January. He was arrested Thursday after federal grand juries in Idaho and Utah handed down indictments.
Little more information about the case emerged at Friday’s brief court hearing; federal Magistrate Judge Mikel Williams set a detention hearing for Kurbanov for Tuesday and scheduled his trial to begin July 2, though that’s likely to be subject to delays.
Kurbanov is among about 650 Uzbeks living in Idaho. He was admitted to the U.S. as a refugee in August 2009, the same month he moved to Boise, said Jan Reeves, director of the Idaho Office for Refugees, citing immigration records. Kurbanov was here legally, federal officials said.
Williams appointed federal defender Richard Rubin to represent Kurbanov, who said in an affidavit filed with the court that he was employed as a truck driver until his arrest, has few assets other than some used automobiles and a small amount of money in the bank, and can’t afford an attorney.
“Does the defendant understand the nature of the charges against him and the maximum penalty that can be applied as to each of those counts?” the judge asked. Kurbanov, who has a short, neatly trimmed beard and a full head of dark hair parted on the side, listened to the interpreter on a corded telephone handset, then nodded and shrugged. Rubin said he’s entering pleas of not guilty to all three of the charges, which carry penalties of up to 15, 15 and 10 years in prison.
The initial appearance was delayed for close to 40 minutes as Rubin got his first chance to meet with his client; they spoke in the courtroom, while the other attorneys and audience waited outside. An interpreter in California translated for Kurbanov into Russian via telephone.
Asked if Kurbanov speaks any English, Rubin said, “Very little, very little.”
Kurbanov struggled to follow the proceedings as he held the telephone handset to his ear to listen to the interpreter. Court officials said they are working on getting an interpreter to be present in court for Kurbanov’s detention hearing, which was set for May 21 at 1:30. The judge said, “All right. That’ll make things work a little smoother.”
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is identified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as an ally of al-Qaeda and the Taliban formed in 1998 with the goal of creating an Islamist state in Uzbekistan, a goal that later broadened to creating an Islamist state across Central Asia in an area sometimes referred to as Turkistan. Some members of the group call it the Islamic Party of Turkistan.
It was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States government in 2005.
Uzbeks began coming to Idaho’s two refugee settlement centers, in Boise and Twin Falls, in 2003, Reeves told the Associated Press; the centers connect them with services such as language classes and help finding work.
After appointing the federal defender to represent Kurbanov, Williams advised Kurbanov of his rights, including that he’s presumed innocent and the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.