Posted on August 17, 2004

TV Ad Calls Pakistani ‘Terrorist’

Jim Morrill, Charlotte Observer,, Aug. 14

An N.C. congressional candidate is airing a new TV ad calling Kamran Akhtar, the Pakistani man arrested while filming Charlotte skyscrapers, a “terrorist” who came here “to kill you.”

Winston-Salem Republican Vernon Robinson is airing the ad on the final weekend before Tuesday’s primary runoff against state Sen. Virginia Foxx of Watauga County. They’re running for Congress, in the 5th District.

Akhtar was arraigned on immigration, not terror-related, charges Friday after his July 20 arrest. Police took him into custody after he was seen videotaping uptown buildings. Officials say he also has taped buildings in Dallas, Austin, Houston and Las Vegas. He’s being held in the Mecklenburg County jail.

Akhtar’s attorney called the TV ad “grossly unfair.”

Robinson, a city alderman who led an eight-member GOP field in last month’s primary, said the arrest underscores his call for tighter immigration controls. His new ad shows a picture of Akhtar.

“When Vernon said our unguarded Mexican border was a threat to our national security, the liberals laughed,” an announcer says in the ad. “They’re not laughing anymore. This is Pakistani terrorist Kamran Akhtar. He got arrested videotaping targets in Charlotte, North Carolina. He came here illegally, across our Mexican border.”

Then Robinson speaks.

“I’m Vernon Robinson and I approve this message because Akhtar didn’t come here to live the American dream. He came here to kill you. In Congress, I will shut that border down.”

Akhtar’s attorney, George Miller of Charlotte, said he’s “real surprised” a candidate would air such an ad. “We haven’t even had a probable cause hearing,” Miller said. “There’s been no trial. There’s been nothing.”

Miller said Akhtar has been charged with providing false information, giving a false name when arrested and failing to leave the United States after a voluntary departure was ordered in 1998.

“We have a constitution that says all men are created equal and . . . we’re all presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Miller said. “This candidate has now decided Mr. Akhtar is a terrorist. He hasn’t been charged with terrorism.”

No one specifically oversees the content of political ads. Some stations have chosen not to run ads they deem potentially libelous. Akhtar could file a civil suit if he feels he’s been wronged.

Robinson makes no apology.

“If it quacks like a duck and we’re in war time, I think it’s a fair assessment,” he said of the charges in the ad. “He (Akhtar) wasn’t a tourist (and) wasn’t here to study architecture.”

Immigration reform has been a top issue for Robinson throughout the campaign. He has attacked the Bush administration’s immigration policies and called for deploying troops along the Mexican and Canadian borders.