CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A Pakistani national, whose collection of travel videos that included several U.S. cities has set law enforcement on edge in at least seven U.S. cities, was ordered held without bail here Friday by a perplexed federal judge.

In a 20-minute hearing, during which the words “terror” or “terrorist” were never spoken, U.S. Magistrate Carl Horn III told Kamran Akhtar, 35, that a long list of conflicting statements given to police officers, immigration investigators and court officials eliminated any chance that he might consider bail.

“I don’t know what’s true and what’s false,” Horn told the slightly built, bespectacled Akhtar, who appeared in the midst of discreet but heightened security.

Sitting in the orange jumpsuit worn by prisoners of the Mecklenburg County Jail, he spoke quietly with his newly-hired attorney, but never directly to the court.

The attorney, George N. Miller, said after the hearing he was at a loss to explain Akhtar’s bewildering series of misrepresentations about everything from his name and occupation to the year he entered the U.S. illegally and his failure to follow up an immigration application that may have given him the right to remain in the United States.

“I’ve only spoken to him a couple of times, and even then very briefly,” said Miller, who specializes in immigration issues. “I’m hoping to get to the bottom of this, but I just don’t know.”

Although Horn made it clear that he would not have granted bond, an immigration hold on Akhtar made his release improbable anyway. And Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Knight Jr. said he will likely seek an indictment against Akhtar when the federal grand jury meets Aug. 23.

Friday’s hearing was the second for Akhtar, who was detained July 20 in downtown Charlotte after a police officer saw him filming a bank building from a street corner in downtown Charlotte. The officer became more suspicious when Akhtar began to walk away.

After questioning by federal authorities, Akhtar was arrested and charged as Kamran Shaikh, of Elmhurst, N.Y., the name on his Pakistani passport, Social Security card and New York driver’s license. Further investigation revealed Shaikh to be Akhtar, who had been ordered to leave the U.S. in 1998.

An application to reconsider his status filed by his wife, who is in the U.S. legally, was apparently approved in April 1998, but there is no evidence that Akhtar followed through on the paperwork needed to finalize the request.

Now Akhtar is facing two criminal charges: failing to leave the country as ordered and lying to federal officials.

Akhtar and his family have insisted that his activities are nothing more than a bus tour of the south, where Akhtar has relatives.

But it is the string of lies and videotapes that have law enforcement officials wondering openly whether Akhtar is a “scout” for some terrorist organization, or just an illegal tourist with a penchant for urban architecture.

A series of search warrants has revealed films of buildings, landmarks and transportation systems in Atlanta, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Houston, Austin and Dallas. However, Homeland Security director Tom Ridge said earlier this week that Akhtar had “no known ties” to terrorism or terrorists.

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At least half of Friday’s hearing was spent reviewing a pre-trial report compiled by federal probation authorities. It is that report, which is not publicly available, that provoked Horn’s comments about Akhtar’s credibility.

In the report, members of Akhtar’s family, as well as Akhtar himself, contradicted or recanted a variety of statements Akhtar had made about himself.

In his arraignment hearing Tuesday, for instance, Akhtar told Horn that he had deposited a total of $120,000 into bank accounts for his children and wife. In the pre-trial report, as recounted in court, Akhtar’s brother told federal officials that he arranged the transfers in an effort to avoid government seizure of the funds.

Other facts in dispute include these:

Akhtar had repeatedly said he entered the United States in 1991. But he said in the pre-trial interview with investigators, he said he entered in 1989.

He told federal officials he held a doctorate in microbiology and had worked in New York teaching medical assistants. In fact, it is his brother who holds an advanced degree in microbiology and Akhtar had worked in a photo shop until recently losing his job.


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