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Accused Russian bomb maker heads to trial

By: Maria Miller

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- A Russian national accused of building bombs in his Altoona apartment will head to trial, but could be released to his family in the meantime.

Vladislav Miftakhov's defense attorney said Monday that his clients case has been blown out of proportion, mainly because of the fact he's Russian, saying the things he's accused of are things most boys do.

Monday was only a preliminary hearing, meaning the government only has to prove that it could have a case. And it did, but narrowly. The judge himself even saying what Miftakhov did was stupid but nothing he believes would have been terrorism.

In court Monday, federal prosecutors showed about a dozen pictures of the items they allegedly took from Miftakhov's apartment, including more than 40 small metal canisters, fuses, magnesium coils, ingredients used to make explosives and a can of static guard that they believe Miftakhov used as he constructed the alleged bombs to avoid detonation. Investigators also showed a picture of a bullet casing with a scroll that read, "If you find this, you will never find me.'" On the outside of the scroll was a small symbol investigators said they believe to be anarchist in nature.

But Miftakhov's defense attorney argued that investigators didn't know the context behind the bullet casing or the message, saying it could have belonged to Miftakhov for years. They also argued that investigators have failed to show any evidence that by building the explosives, Miftakhov intended to hurt someone, saying everything they found in his apartment were things he legally purchased online; materials used to make explosives like rockets and fireworks with instructions that can be found online; things he said most young boys have experimented with one time or another.

The judge agreed saying that while Miftakhov was in the possession of some dangerous chemicals and explosives, the government has failed to show he meant to create harm.  The judge said he understands the type of world we live in but said Miftakhov does not appears to be a "marathon bomber," but rather someone who just didn't think. He bound the case over for trial.

Prosecutors then argued Miftakhov should remain detained, citing a term of probation he's currently serving out of California, and an unrelated charge for lewdness toward a child. Prosecutors said he was a man addicted to drugs, a threat to the community and a flight risk.

Miftakhov's defense attorney disagreed, saying Miftakhov should be released to his parents because he has no reason to flee the county. He painted Miftakhov's family as extremely intelligent and accomplished, saying they have strong ties to the U.S.: Miftakhov's mother and father graduated with masters and a Ph.D. from Dartmouth and Princeton, respectively, Miftakhov himself was raised in the U.S. since childhood and attended public school.

The judge said there was no reason why Miftakhov should remain detained, saying drug charges are not reason enough.

Miftakhov will remain in custody for at least another day, as the judge decides an amount for bail. By the end of the week though, he could be headed back to California with his parents. It's expected the government will appeal that decision.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times