Material witness warrant against Texas doctor lifted

SAN ANTONIO, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Federal investigators have lifted a material witness warrant against a Saudi-born radiologist held for questioning a day after the Sept. 11 suicide attacks on New York and Washington, an FBI spokesman said on Tuesday.

The 34-year-old doctor was arrested at his San Antonio home Sept. 12 and taken to New York City for questioning. FBI spokeswoman Lori Bailey in Dallas confirmed the warrant against him was lifted, but declined to comment further.

The doctor drew attention after missing a scheduled work assignment at the University of Texas Health Science Center's radiology department on the day that hijacked jetliners slammed into New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon near Washington leaving nearly 7,000 people dead or missing.

FBI agents copied files from his office and seized a public computer from the university library on the day they arrested him.

The doctor flew back to San Antonio from New York Tuesday and gave a brief statement to reporters outside his home.

"Let us be tolerant of each other, and close together and be united, and learn not to hate because hatred is evil and love is good," the doctor said. "We hope that God will give (the victims' families) the strength to go through this hardship. We tell them that evil will not succeed."

He said the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. "has nothing to do with Islam or any religion" and that he forgives those who suspected him of wrongdoing.

The doctor has finished three years of a four-year medical residency that is being sponsored by state oil company Saudi Aramco. Friends describe the doctor, who is married with three children, as a devout Muslim.

"Hearing now that the warrants have been dismissed against him isn't a surprise," said Leni Kirkman, a friend of the doctor and an official at the hospital where he practices. "We all have to remember that people are innocent until proven guilty. This has to be an extremely difficult time for him and his family."

Kirkman compared the case to that of Richard Jewell, a security guard who was the focus of an investigation into the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing that killed one woman and injured more than 100 other people. He was fully exonerated, but not until after he became the subject of intense media scrutiny.

20:55 09-25-01

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