Back to back, another Muslim with “questionable” ties is exonerated in court. Though two federal agents assert he is linked to Hamas, the judge sides with an attorney who, after attending a Ramadan fast break in a mosque, concluded that the accused is a “man of great goodwill.” Update to this story.
“Terror claims against NJ Muslim leader rejected,” from AP, September 4 :
NEWARK, N.J.: An influential New Jersey Muslim leader accused by some federal officials of having terrorist ties but praised by others as being an important ally won his fight to gain permanent U.S. residency Thursday.
A federal immigration judge in Newark ruled that Mohammad Qatanani, the spiritual leader of the Islamic Center of Passaic County, can remain in the U.S.
The ruling brought cheers, tears and applause from about a dozen Qatanani supporters who gathered in the courtroom.
“I would like to thank the judge for working hard in this case,” Qatanani said. “This is a beautiful thing. The justice system in this country is great.”
U.S. immigration authorities had sought to deport Qatanani on grounds that he failed to disclose on his green card application a prior arrest and conviction in Israel for being a member of Hamas, a group classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
Qatanani has denied being a Hamas member and said he was detained, not arrested, by the Israelis while traveling to his native West Bank in 1993. He said he was not notified of the charges against him or his conviction and that he was mentally and physically abused while in detention.
In ruling for Qatanani, immigration Judge Alberto J. Riefkohl questioned the reliability of the records submitted by the Department of Homeland Security purporting to show Qatanani’s arrest and conviction in Israel. The judge called the U.S. government’s case against Qatanani “patently incomplete,” and found its two key witnesses — both federal agents — to not be credible.
Riefkohl also noted that Qatanani has received support from U.S. law enforcement officials. One supporter, U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie, was among several high-ranking law enforcement officials who attended a Ramadan fast-breaking celebration at the Paterson mosque.
“My view is he’s always had a very good relationship with us, and he’s a man of great goodwill,” Christie said Wednesday before exchanging traditional cheek-kiss greetings with Qatanani and wishing him well.