US drops terror charges against 3 Pakistanis
By Our Correspondent
WASHINGTON, Aug 16: United States authorities have dropped terrorism charges against three Pakistani nationals after they agreed to be deported to their home country. The three initially faced charges of terrorism but those were changed to illegal stay after they agreed to accept their deportation.
Shabbir Ahmed, the imam of a mosque in Lodi, California, told an immigration judge he had accepted the offer to leave the US. His fellow cleric Mohammad Adil Khan, 47, was deported on Monday to Pakistan with his 19-year-old son.
Attorney Saad Ahmad, who represents both the clerics, said Shabbir Ahmed, 39, would join his wife and three daughters in Islamabad, while Mr Khan was heading to Karachi, where he had a wife and several children. Mr Khan's father runs a religious school in Karachi, where Mr Ahmed was once a student of Mr Khan's.
US immigration officials said Mr Ahmed's departure would protect Americans but his defence attorney said that by allowing him to leave the country the prosecutors had revealed the weakness of the federal terror probe.
Mr Ahmed was charged only with violating the terms of his religious-worker visa, but a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent testified last week that he had conspired in a complex scheme to recruit young men in Lodi to carry out violence as ordered by Al Qaeda-linked extremists in Pakistan.
"Based on the allegations by the government — no matter how baseless they were — my client thought he didn't have anything more to fight for," said attorney Ahmad. "If someone is charged or even connected to terrorism, he will not have the same sense of safety."
Before his arrest, Adil Khan was leading efforts to build a Muslim private school for the children of Lodi and Stockton families.
Ronald LeFevre, chief counsel for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said: "Once he leaves the US, Mr Ahmed will no longer be in a position to advance any doctrine of hate from within our community," adding: "It is removing a threat from our midst."
Also detained in the case were a father and son charged with lying about the son's alleged attendance at an Al Qaeda training camp in Pakistan. The trial of Hamid Hayat, 22, and his 47-year-old father Umer Hayat in federal court in Sacramento has been postponed until at least October.
The FBI said in a court affidavit in June that Hamid Hayat admitted to having attended a "jihadist training camp in Pakistan for approximately six months" more than a year ago. The Hayats' attorneys deny that Hamid Hayat attended a camp and suggest that their comments in FBI interviews were a result of pressure and misunderstanding.
US government immigration lawyer Paul Nishiie displayed a poster-sized chart in court last week that he said linked Mr Ahmed and Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. But his attorney compared the accusations against Mr Ahmed to charges of communist ties in the 1950s. "Now, if you want to get someone in real trouble, you make some connection to Al Qaeda," he said.
California Muslim cleric, son deported
SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) -- A Muslim cleric and his son, both of whom agreed to deportation after their June arrest on visa violations during a federal terrorism investigation, have been returned to Pakistan, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said Wednesday.
"ICE officials say the removal of Mohammad Adil Khan, 47, and his son Mohammad Hassan Adil, 19, was completed late yesterday with their arrival in Pakistan on board a commercial flight escorted by ICE officers," the agency said in a written statement.
"The removal of the cleric and his son follows an immigration hearing July 15 where the pair announced they were abandoning their legal fight to remain in the United States and would return to their native country."
Khan was imam of a mosque in Lodi, California.
Federal immigration officials said Khan and his successor, Shabbir Ahmed, planned to establish a madrassa or Islamic school similar to one in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, where both taught before coming to the United States.
"Evidence presented at last week's proceeding showed that this madrassa has been used to recruit individuals to engage in jihad," or Muslim holy war, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement Monday.
Ahmed, 39, who was arrested in June for overstaying his visa, said Monday he would not fight deportation. He is likely to be sent back to his home country within two weeks, according to his lawyer, Saad Ahmad. (Full story)
Another father-son pair in Lodi was also caught up in the investigation. U.S. citizens Umer Hayat, 47, and Hamid Hayat, 22, were accused of lying to FBI agents.