Egyptian restaurant owner in Ft. Lauderdale whose name was on terror watch praised Bin Laden and suicide bombers
Basuyony Mamduh Ebaid attempts to avoid deportation claiming he will be "mistreated' in Egypt
MIM: Ft. Lauderdale restaurant owner Basuyouy Mamdouh Ebaid was busted on a charge of serving alchohol to minors and his named turned up on a terrorism watch list. He is now facing deportation on a marijuana charge and is trying to claim that he will be "mistreated" in Egypt. It bears noting that Ebaid's restaurant Exotic Bites is very close to the Shuckum's where Mohammed Atta and other 9/11 hijackers 'celebrated' before the attacks. Which begs the question as to if the hijackers living in the Ft. Lauderdale area ever dropped in for a chat in Arabic with Ebaid, who shared their views on Osama bin Laden and suicide bombers.
Deportation hinges on pot case
As soon as Hollywood cops busted an Egyptian man for selling alcohol after hours at a downtown restaurant, they ran his criminal history and he turned up as a suspected terrorist.
But after the big story broke, it turned out Basuyouy Mamdouh Ebaid, 44, was on a federal terrorist watch list because he was overheard allegedly praising al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and suicide bombers.
FBI agents later found nothing tying him to terrorists, according to his lawyers and wife, who strongly denied he ever said those things.
"He is Egyptian, and I am Mexican," said Ebaid's wife, Maria Flores, who is a U.S. citizen. "We chose this country to raise our children. My husband loves this country. What happened to him is terrible. It destroyed his reputation."
The FBI isn't talking, and no terrorism-related charges are being filed. But federal immigration authorities still want to boot Ebaid out of the country. Not for alleged terrorist activities -- but for buying pot in 1999. A hearing before an immigration judge is set for Monday.
Ebaid and his attorneys face two legal challenges:
• Eliminating Ebaid's 1999 marijuana conviction. A Miami-Dade judge erased it because he was a first-time offender, but U.S. authorities recognize it as a felony conviction.
• Proving that Ebaid would likely be tortured, "disappeared" or killed if deported to Egypt because U.S. authorities have labeled him as a "terrorist."
Ebaid, who has been held at the Krome Detention Center since early March, first came to this country as a student in 1984. He and his wife have two children.
Before his detention, Ebaid worked alongside his wife at their Middle Eastern restaurant, Exotic Bites, on Young Circle. Flores is currently running the business on her own.
Ebaid's lawyers are trying to stop his deportation to Egypt by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement because they argue he would face persecution in his homeland after being branded as a "terrorist" in the United States.
"We're concerned this label subjects him to peril in Egypt, a country he has not seen in 20 years," said his Hollywood attorney, Ralph Kenol.
Kenol's arguments are backed up by Human Rights Watch, a New York-based nonprofit organization that investigates alleged torture and other abuses worldwide.
A recent report says the United States and other countries have sent scores of alleged Islamic militants back to Egypt, where they have faced torture, serious mistreatment or been forcibly "disappeared."
HUMAN RIGHTS LAW
"Sending suspects to a country where they are likely to be tortured is strictly prohibited under international law," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Egypt's terrible record of torturing prisoners means that no country should forcibly send a suspect there."
While Ebaid's lawyers cite the same fear, they must resolve more pressing immigration problems for their client. His student visa expired ages ago, his 2002 application for legal residency is still pending and his state felony record is still on the books.
In June 1999, Ebaid pleaded guilty in Miami-Dade Circuit Court to purchasing and possessing less than 20 grams of marijuana for his personal use that year. As part of his plea deal, he was sentenced to time served -- one day. Also, the judge withheld Ebaid's convictions so, in effect, the state does not consider him a convicted felon.
That's not the case in the eyes of the federal government. The pot-purchasing conviction is an aggravated felony, which allows immigration authorities to send Ebaid back to Egypt. The possession conviction does not fall into that category.
His Miami attorney, Linda Osberg-Braun, recently sought to have the whole case thrown out.
"The defendant entered a plea without any knowledge of the true effects of his plea upon his immigration status in the United States," Osberg-Braun told the court in March.
EFFECTS OF GUILTY PLEA
"The defendant was not advised that his plea could subject him to deportation," she said. 'In fact, he was affirmatively told by the judge that it `was not a conviction of guilt.' "
Circuit Judge Jacqueline Scola, who did not originally handle Ebaid's case, rejected his request to toss out the case. It's on appeal.
Ebaid is hoping the immigration judge will temporarily stop his deportation to Egypt while his lawyers attempt to eliminate his felony record.
The more recent charges for serving alcohol to minors after hours at his Hollywood restaurant would not affect his immigration status because they are misdemeanors.
"If his criminal record is expunged, then he can apply for legal residency and stay with his wife and family and become a U.S. citizen," Kenol said.
Legal experts said Ebaid's case is remarkable because he was tagged as a "terrorist" but is now being deported for using pot.
David Martin, a University of Virginia law professor who served as the immigration service's general counsel during the Clinton administration, said resolving Ebaid's legal issues won't be easy.
"He is vulnerable on a whole lot of counts," Martin said. "He would have to thread several needles to end up with some form of legal status here."
But Martin said if all that fails, Ebaid could file a petition with federal immigration officials about his fears of being returned to Egypt, a country where he could be mistreated. "If there's adequate proof of that, he can be shielded from deportation," Martin said.
Ebaid's wife is hoping the family can stay together and keep their business alive.
Flores said her husband was committed to the restaurant -- friends and customers referred to him as "Manny." She said he was devoted to her and their boy and girl, but she now fears if the government sends him back to Egypt, that will be the end.
"It's important for him to be with his family," Flores said. "We need him. The children need him."