Rageh al-Murisi made his first appearance in San Francisco’s Federal Court today after being arrested for charging a cockpit door on a San Francisco-bound flight.

The government laid out some of its case against al-Murisi. Assistant US Attorney Elise Becker said he came down the aisle from the back of the plane chanting “Allah Akbar” – God is Great – as he tried to barge into the cockpit.

Becker said al-Murisi began his journey in New York and said he was headed to visit relatives in Vallejo.  His relatives in Vallejo said they had no knowledge of the visit.  Becker also told the judge that al-Murisi had no baggage and traveled with $47 cash and a pair of sunglasses.

More details the government laid out before the judge:

  • Al-Murisi entered the country on an immigrant visa in January 2010.  He has a permanent residency card.
  • They believe he held a job in New York at some point although they didn’t have more detail.
  • Al-Murisi was traveling with a number of identification cards, some valid and some expired, including 2 New York State learner’s permits, a New York State drivers license issued last month, and an expired California ID card with his Vallejo relative’s address
  • He used the address of his relatives in Vallejo as his stated address when he entered the country.

After al-Murisi was led back into custody, his cousin from Vallejo, 25-year-old Ahmed al-Moraissi spoke to reporters outside the courtroom.  He confirmed that the family hadn’t know about al-Murisi’s visit, but maintained he was not a threat.

“He’s a normal guy he has no intentions of hurting nobody.  I don’t know what happened on the plane,” said al-Moraissi.  He went on to say that his cousin’s actions on the plane “didn’t make sense.  When I first heard it, I didn’t believe it.”

He did say that his cousin had been a math teacher in Yemen.

In the hearing, Rageh al-Murisi mostly looked downward.  He is a slight man and spoke to the judge through an interpreter.

The judge said the maximum penalty included up to 20 years in custody and a maximum $250,000 fine.

His public defender asked for more time to confer with al-Murisi’s family.  The judge set al-Murisi’s detention hearing, his next appearance in court, for this Friday, May 13.

Man Who Charged Cockpit Door on SFO Flight Makes Court Appearance 10 May,2011Rachel Dornhelm


Rachel Dornhelm

Rachel Dornhelm has worked as a reporter, editor and producer in public radio for the last twelve years. She got her start in New York City at WNYC and went on to work with the national business program Marketplace, WBUR’s “On Point” and KQED News in San Francisco. Her work has been honored by the LA Press Club and the SF-Peninsula Press Club.

Rachel has a BA with honors in anthropology from Rice University and did graduate work at NYU.

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