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Documents sought in case of Saudi student facing gun charge

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Attorneys for a Saudi Arabian student at the University of New Mexico who is facing a federal firearms charge are seeking more documents from prosecutors in an effort to get their client released.

They asked for a copy of the search warrant during a preliminary hearing Monday. Federal prosecutors said they would have to redact some information in the document before handing it over, prompting a U.S. magistrate judge to delay the proceeding for a day.

It will be up to the judge to decide if Hassan Alqahtani, a 27-year-old engineering student, can be released pending trial. He is accused of illegal possession of a firearm as a student visa holder after a search last week of his Albuquerque residence turned up a handgun and resulted in his arrest.

Shackled and wearing a jumpsuit, Alqahtani was flanked by his attorneys as he listened to a special agent with the FBI recount how the investigation started with a tip received in August by the bureau’s National Threat Operations Center.

According to court documents, the person who filed the complaint told authorities that Alqahtani had a gun and a list of people he wanted to kill before leaving the United States. The special agent testified that the person told investigators he was among those on what he described as a “kill list” and that it included a professor and a former roommate.

Special Agent Jonathan Labuhn acknowledged that the person never saw a written list. “It was more of a mental list Alqahtani kept of people who had slighted him,” Labuhn said.

The agent said the person who filed the complaint at some point had a fight with Alqahtani that ended in a scuffle and the person being injured.

The complaint also states that a confidential source told investigators that Alqahtani approached him in November with an interest in purchasing a rifle and that Alqahtani later said he was interested instead in acquiring a smaller gun for protection. The court documents also alleged that Alqahtani knew he wasn’t allowed to have a gun given his status as a student visa holder and that he said his girlfriend would claim ownership of the weapon if it was ever found.

Joel Meyers, one of Alqahtani’s attorneys, disputed accusations that the firearm seized from Alqahtani’s home belonged to his client. Meyers has said Alqahtani is in the U.S. legally on a student visa and that he lives with his wife — described as his girlfriend in the criminal complaint. She is not prohibited from possessing a firearm.

Federal prosecutors alleged that the woman initially told investigators there were no weapons in the home but changed her story and claimed ownership of the gun after it was found.

During testimony, Labuhn suggested that the woman was afraid of Alqahtani and that she had a black eye and bruising on her side when she was interviewed by authorities. She said the injuries were from a bike accident, but Labuhn said the bicycle she claimed to have been using had flat tires and was covered with cobwebs.

Alqahtani’s wife, mother and some friends were seated in the courtroom Monday. His relatives were in town because Alqahtani was set to graduate Saturday, a day after he was taken into custody.

The preliminary hearing and a subsequent hearing to determine if Alqahtani will be released were scheduled to resume Tuesday afternoon.