The Vallejo man accused of disrupting an American Airlines flight to San Francisco by trying to storm the cockpit while shouting "God is great" in Arabic will undergo psychological testing and return to court on May 23, a federal magistrate ruled Friday.
Rageh al-Murisi, a Yemeni immigrant with a U.S. resident card, is being held without bail by federal authorities on charges that could keep him in prison for 20 years.
At a bail hearing on Friday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, U.S. Magistrate James Larson said al-Murisi could not be released before trial because he appeared to be a threat to the community.
"Any further consideration of release will have to wait until we have a mental evaluation and further review of your background," Larson said, according to KTVU.com, the Web site of a television station based in nearby Oakland.
Larson said a confidential assessment prepared by court personnel found that al-Murisi had been hearing voices and experiencing other hallucinations for a month or two before the alleged incident on the plane.
Federal prosecutors allege that al-Murisi, who was on the second leg of a trip from New York to visit family members in Vallejo, rose from his seat as the Boeing 737 approached San Francisco International Airport and, saying "Allahu Akhbar," attempted to open the locked cockpit door.
Al-Murisi, 28, was subdued by members of the flight crew and several passengers -- two of whom were former law enforcement officers, and had to be kept guarded until the plane landed and federal marshals took him into custody.
"There is no doubt that the facts raised by the government raise very serious concerns," Larson said in explaining his decision, KTVU said.
Assistant Federal Public Defender Elizabeth Falk, who represented al-Murisi, asked the judge to release the suspect into his family's custody.
"We just want to get him the best treatment we can as fast as we can," Falk said.
But Larson refused, saying al-Murisi's alleged actions on the plane were "dangerous."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Elise Becker said al-Murisi's actions had put the lives of the 162 people on the plane in jeopardy, KTVU said.
"My goal right now is to make sure society is protected from him," the prosecutor said.