Airport terror suspect to undergo mental tests

Robert Snell
The Detroit News
Amor Ftouhi

Flint — Amor Ftouhi, a Tunisian national accused of stabbing a police officer during a terrorist attack at Bishop International Airport in Flint last year, will undergo psychiatric tests, a move that raises doubt about whether he will stand trial in November.

The tests will determine if Ftouhi, 51, is competent to stand trial or suffers from diminished capacity. The upcoming tests were revealed by Ftouhi's lawyer, Joan Morgan, during a pretrial conference in federal court Tuesday.

“I will be able to let the court and government know whether I would be interested in pursuing a mental-health defense,” Morgan told the judge.

Ftouhi, whose outbursts and chants of “Allahu Akbar” have marked previous court appearances, was expected to attend the hearing in front of U.S. District Judge Linda Parker. There was a heavy security presence at the courthouse in downtown Flint, including a bomb-sniffing dog circling the courthouse, but Ftouhi stayed in the courthouse lock-up.

The hearing came two weeks after Parker refused to relocate the terror trial based on a defense claim that the jury pool in Flint was tainted and prejudiced against Ftouhi. The judge also said a jury questionnaire will help determine prospective jurors' exposure to pretrial publicity about the case.

Ftouhi is tentatively scheduled to stand trial Nov. 5 on three counts, including committing an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries, which is punishable by up to life in prison. He is accused of stabbing Bishop Airport police Lt. Jeff Neville, who survived the attack, on June 21, 2017.

A witness said Ftouhi walked up to the airport police officer, yelled “Allahu Akbar,” pulled out a knife, stabbed the officer in the neck and said, ‘You have killed people in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are all going to die,’ ” according to the federal criminal complaint against Ftouhi.

Officer Jeff Neville, who was stabbed on the second floor of the Bishop International Airport on Wednesday, is recovering at Hurley Hospital and is expected to be released as early as Sunday.

Ftouhi came to the U.S. after conducting online research into American gun laws and Michigan gun shows, prosecutors allege.

He tried unsuccessfully to buy a gun, bought a knife and used it to stab Neville, according to court records.

Ftouhi later told investigators he was a “soldier of Allah” and that he subscribed to the ideology of al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

Federal authorities say Ftouhi acted alone and that the suspect “wanted to identify” an international airport to carry out his attack but officials declined to say what made him pick Flint.

Ftouhi is believed by authorities to have traveled to the United States legally from Canada on June 16, 2017, through Lake Champlain, New York, and then entered Michigan on June 18, 2017.

He had lived in Canada for the previous decade. 

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