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Slain Military Recruiter Honored

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- Gov. Mike Beebe has directed that flags fly at half-staff on Monday to honor Pvt. William Long, a new soldier who was fatally shot outside an Army-Navy recruiting center this week.

Beebe said on his monthly radio show Friday that Arkansans should honor Long, whose funeral is set for Monday. Long will be buried at the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock.

Defendant Abdulhakim Muhammad was in a Little Rock courtroom Friday morning to have a defense attorney formally appointed to his case.

Muhammad has pleaded not guilty to capital murder. He stood silent during the court hearing - though lawyer Jim Hensley had said previously that his client had wanted to make a statement or hold a news conference to "explain himself."

Federal officials are also considering charges.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP's earlier story is below.

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The man accused of fatally shooting a soldier outside a recruiting center begged for FBI agents to free him from a Yemeni jail where he was "radicalized" by Islamic terrorists, his lawyer told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Lawyer Jim Hensley described Abdulhakim Muhammad as an impressionable youth driven to public service in an impoverished Middle Eastern country. But teachings by "hardened" terrorists in Yemen and experiences with Afghan child refugees who were missing limbs drove him to become someone his parents didn't recognize, Hensley said.

"Here comes the FBI, who may be able to help this guy or save his life, and then they leave and then he's got to go back in with these hardened terrorists. He's got to survive, how do you live with that?" Hensley said. "He absolutely feels that the FBI and anyone else associated with the United States government left him to the wolves, that's for certain."

The FBI referred calls to a spokesman who was not in his office Thursday. Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley did not immediately respond to a call for comment.

Muhammad has pleaded not guilty to a capital murder charge in the death Monday of Pvt. William Long. Another soldier, Pvt. Quinton I. Ezeagwula, was wounded in the attack. Hensley said his client stood by his plea and said Muhammad wanted to hold a news conference with reporters or issue a statement to "explain himself."

Muhammad, 23, is scheduled to be back in court Friday morning in Little Rock. Long, who was also 23, will be buried Monday at the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery.

Hensley said Muhammad was a college student in Tennessee and left early to pursue volunteer work teaching English to children in Yemen. The lawless and impoverished country on the tip of the Arabian peninsula - also the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden's family - was the scene of one of al-Qaida's most dramatic pre-9/11 attacks, the 2000 suicide bombing of the destroyer USS Cole off the Aden coast that killed 17 American sailors.

While in Yemen, Hensley said Muhammad married and converted to Islam. Police detained him after his visa expired, Hensley said. A law enforcement official previously told the AP that Muhammad was arrested and jailed for using a Somali passport. Hensley said he knew nothing about his client using a Somali passport, and that Muhammad's wife remains in Yemen.

Hensley said an FBI agent from the Nashville, Tenn., field office visited Muhammad while in prison. Muhammad asked him for help, but the lawyer said the agent wanted only to question him about his links to possible terrorists.

Muhammad spent four months in the prison before U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., was able to intercede with the State Department on his behalf, Hensley said. While in prison, Muhammad faced torture and beatings from jailers, prisoners or both that left him scarred, the lawyer said.

Cohen's office said Thursday that it was contacted by someone who had a son being held in Yemen due to an expired visa. "As a matter of routine, these cases are referred to the U.S. State Department for further action," spokesman Steven Broderick said in a statement.

Muhammad returned to Tennessee a different man, constantly pacing and unable to sleep, Hensley said. The FBI visited him there, warning that he remained under surveillance and was seen as a possible threat, the lawyer said.

"They made the statement, 'We're watching you. We know what you're doing. We're going to get you,'" Hensley said.

Police described the Monday shooting as stemming from religious motivations. Hensley declined to discuss what his client thought, but said Muhammad denied telling detectives that he would have killed more soldiers if they had been in the parking lot. Police had said Muhammad told investigators that he aimed to "kill as many people in the Army as he could."

Hensley described Muhammad as a smart young man who once played high school football. However, the lawyer said he knew nothing about Muhammad's 2004 arrest in Knoxville on weapons charges. Muhammad, then known as Carlos Bledsoe, was found in a car with an SKS rifle inside in the car, with five rounds in a clip and one round in the rifle's chamber.

Officers also found a sawed-off shotgun and another shotgun inside the car, as well as an ounce of marijuana, a switchblade knife and two shotgun shells on Muhammad.

Muhammad faced weapons and drug charges after the arrest, though court records show prosecutors filed only a single misdemeanor charge against him. That charge was dismissed four months later.

Hensley said Muhammad's parents were shocked by the shooting, and that his mother was hospitalized Thursday after apparently suffering a stroke.

During their first meeting, Hensley said, Muhammad gave him a firm handshake and spoke clearly. While at times he showed a harder mentality, at others he seemed like a thoughtful and "businesslike."

"There's still a good part of Carlos left in this young man," Hensley said.


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