The lawyer for the man accused of killing an Army private and wounding another outside a Little Rock recruiting center says his client was radicalized during a 2007 trip to Yemen.
In an interview with CNN, attorney Jim Hensley said Abdulhakim Muhammad returned a changed and possibly mentally disturbed man:
"My client is a young man, I think, brainwashed. What else could be explained for a young man who's a true American, plays football, helps his grandmother and mows the lawns of his neighbors? Comes back and then finds himself in this situation? That is not a normal situation in my book."
Hensley's interview confirmed a report Tuesday by the Investigative Project on Terrorism that Muhammad married a Yemeni woman and was jailed for visa violations.
Hensley claims his client was mistreated while in custody, including beatings on the back of his legs.
A Yemeni embassy official disputed Hensley's theory, saying "radicalization can take a number of years, not a couple of weeks."
Muhammad was named Carlos Bledsoe before converting to Islam. He was encouraged to travel to Yemen to study under a radical cleric named Yahya Hajuri. It is unclear whether he ever got to Hajuri's madrassa in Dammaj, a remote tribal area.
Hensley also told CNN an FBI agent visited Muhammad in the Yemeni jail and interrogated him. The agent, Hensley said, "believed that Carlos was some kind of hardened terrorist hellbent on doing violence to America," Hensley said.
Muhammad is charged with capital murder and 16 counts of committing terrorist acts by shooting into the Little Rock Army recruiting office.