No Charges to be made against Saudi Men Who Boarded Tampa School Bus

By Douglas J. Hagmann, Director

INSTEAD - “They have to write an essay in English documenting their experience,” said state attorney’s spokeswoman Pam Bondi, adding that it would “aid other students from other cultures” by showing them “what is allowable and acceptable in our country.”


30 June 2006: Last month, the two men pictured above, both from Saudi Arabia and living in Tampa, were arrested after they boarded a school bus filled with high school students being transported to Wharton High School. Mana Saleh Almanajam, 23, and Shaker Mohsen Alsidran, 20 were charged with trespassing on school grounds as unlawful riders on a school bus. When questioned by authorities, the two men lied and “acted cagey,” according to law enforcement officials.

This week, officials at the Florida’s state attorney’s office said neither man would be prosecuted if they complete a pretrial intervention program for first-time offenders. They were released after detectives “determined they meant no harm,” and immigration agents found that they were here legally. “We’ve said all along this was a mistake and a misunderstanding,” said Ahmed Bedier, director of the Central Florida Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). “They are very naive as to how the system works here. They didn’t mean any harm.”

Incredibly, while Bedier didn’t object to the essay assignment, he still seemed upset by the initial treatment of Almanajam and Alsidran - namely, the days they spent in jail without bail and the assumption that they were considering a terrorist attack. “People were jumping to conclusions,” Bedier said. “This incident exposed the bias and the climate that exist for Muslims living in this country.”

It is important to note that further research by the Northeast Intelligence Network found that both men came to the US in January to study English at the University of South Florida ”as part of a Saudi-government sponsored program to boost post-September 11 Saudi enrolments in US schools and ease hostility.”