Seattle imam deported to Kenya
- WA: SEATTLE IMAM ENDS HIS EFFORT TO STAY IN U.S.
Mosque leader, held for 6 months, ordered deported to Kenya
A Seattle mosque leader who has been accused of funneling money to
terrorist groups -- allegations that angered his many supporters in
the local East African community -- gave up his fight Thursday to
stay in the United States.
An immigration judge ordered that Abrahim Sheikh Mohamed, who isn't
charged with any terrorism-related crimes, be deported to Kenya.
Mohamed has been locked up since his arrest Nov. 14 on immigration
violations, and nearly six months of confinement -- much of it in
isolation -- weighed heavily on his decision to accept deportation,
according to his lawyer, Hilary Han.
"He's lived in the United States for almost six years. He has many
ties here, and this is a place where he has been able to be safe,"
Han said. "This was not an easy decision for him."
Mohamed was accused of lying about being a member of a minority clan
and his country of origin, among other things, in order to gain
asylum. Federal immigration prosecutors say he is a citizen of Kenya
and not war-torn Somalia.
With his fingerprints, authorities obtained several identity and
passport-application documents that show he is from Kenya, according
to Dorothy Stefan, regional chief counsel for Immigration and
"We are gratified by the outcome of this case. It underscores ICE's
commitment to protecting the integrity of our nation's legal
Han said that while Mohamed applied for such documents in Kenya, he
is a native of Somalia and likely would have been able to prove it --
though he has now waived that chance. His deportation hearing had
been scheduled for later this month.
Mohamed told Immigration Judge Victoria Young through a Somali
interpreter Thursday that it was "a very difficult time" for him but
said he was willingly giving up his efforts to stay.
Young ordered him deported to Kenya but left Somalia as an
alternative if the Kenyan government won't take him.
Six members of the Abu-Bakr Mosque attended the hearing but declined
to comment about their friend's situation.
Mohamed had led prayers as imam of the Rainier Valley mosque for
five years before federal agents arrested him last fall at Sea-Tac
Airport, where he'd just arrived on a domestic flight.
In February, more than 200 people rallied in front of the mosque
while Mohamed sought to be freed on bond.
But during his bond hearing, FBI agents and other witnesses
testified that he had ties to terrorism and was raising money for a
radical Islamic holy war.
A man who ran an African restaurant near the mosque said $50,000 to
$100,000 was raised each week for al-Itihaad a-Islamiya, a Somali
terrorist organization to which he said Mohamed belongs.
The man also claimed that "jihad training" took place regularly in a
nearby parking lot, where young people with BB guns were taught how
to shoot people and blow up buildings.
Mohamed's supporters called such allegations ludicrous. They painted
a picture of a peaceful leader who worked to keep Somali children on
productive paths, and Han argued that some of the government's
witnesses had grudges or other reasons to lie.
In March, Young concluded Mohamed was a threat to national security
and denied his request to be freed on bond.
Han said Mohamed's decision to agree to be deported had nothing to
do with the terrorism allegations.
An FBI spokeswoman said she could not discuss whether there was an
ongoing criminal investigation of Mohamed.
Aziz Junejo, who hosts a local cable TV show on Islam, said it
was "a very sad day" for the Muslim community. He said he has known
Mohamed for several years and believes the man gave up his fight "to
keep his dignity and respect."
"If one of our leaders was involved in terrorism, we wouldn't want
him as a leader," Junejo said. "There's just no evidence of that."
P-I reporter Tracy Johnson can be reached at 206-467-5942 or
tracyjohnson @ seattlepi.com.
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