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USF students face arraignment

Suspended USF student Youssef Megahed pleaded not guilty to transporting explosive materials at a hearing Wednesday morning.

Co-defendant Ahmed Mohamed – who is also a suspended USF student – did not enter a plea for federal charges of teaching how to make and use an explosive device at the arraignment hearing.

Mohamed and Megahed were arrested in Goose Creek, S.C. Aug. 4 and subsequently faced state and federal explosives charges. The pair – originally stopped for speeding – was apprehended after a deputy searched their Toyota Camry and thought he found pipe bombs.

At their indictment, it was revealed Megahed and Mohamed had of a mixture of corn syrup, kitty litter and potassium stuffed into PVC pipe, a box of bullets, gasoline and an electric drill in the trunk. Federal court docments also indicate that Mohamed’s laptop contained files and folders about explosives.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Pizzo agreed to extend Mohamed’s arraignment until Oct. 17, as defense attorney John Fitzgibbons – recently retained by the Egyptian Embassy to represent Mohamed – had not finalized the legal formalities between himself and the Embassy.

Fitzgibbons said that “there was at least one minister in Egypt involved” in the process. The Embassy is providing Mohamed’s defense because 26 year-old engineering graduate student is an Egyptian national.

Megahed, also an Egyptian citizen, will keep the U.S. public defender’s office as his counsel. Fitzgibbons – a former assistant U.S. attorney who has been involved high-profile trials such as the Debra LaFave case – also said Mohamed requested an interpreter in the past and would like an interpreter present for future proceedings.

According to Pizzo, past court records do not indicate any requests for an interpreter, but he said that the court would provide one. Megahed’s lawyer, Adam Allen, also requested an interpreter.

Both Allen and Fitzgibbons agreed that a stand-by interpreter, who would clarify words or phrases on a case-by-case-basis, was sufficient and that their clients didn’t need a simultaneous translator present. Neither Fitzgibbons nor Allen thought their clients needed an interpreter present at Wednesday’s proceedings. The trial is slated to begin Dec. 3.