Former USF student's bomb trial begins

March 18, 2009 at 9:47 PM

TAMPA, Fla., March 18 (UPI) -- Opening statements were made Wednesday in the trial of a former University of South Florida student accused of transporting explosives.

Youssef Megahed, 23, faces charges of transporting explosives and possessing a destructive device. He could face up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted as charged, the Tampa (Fla.) Tribune reported.

Megahed and Ahmed Mohamed were charged after sheriff's deputies found pipe bombs in their trunk during a traffic stop while they were traveling to the beach, the newspaper reported.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Adam Allen said in his opening statement that his client did not know that his college buddy, Ahmed Mohamed, had packed "sugar rockets" in the trunk of Megahed's brother's car, which they had borrowed.

He asked jurors not to prejudge his client, a Muslim who came to this country from Egypt with his family when he was 11-years-old.

The newspaper said U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday has barred prosecutors from showing videos of Mideast violence that were found on the Megahed family computer.

"Possession of explosives or destructive devices, I would argue, by its nature, is terrorist or terrorism-related," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Hoffer told the judge.

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