Former Sharon imam Muhammed Masood is likely flying out of New York tonight and back to Pakistan. He's expected to land in Islamabad sometime tomorrow evening. What sort of reception will he receive there? Will the Pakistani papers cover this return of one of their own?
"Tonight’s Pakistan Airlines flight from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City to Islamabad will bring an end to a case that has lasted almost two years, first in immigration court and then with a criminal case for the same visa fraud charges."
A handful of local papers covered the story, let's start with the Boston Globe:
"....today, under an agreement with federal immigration authorities, the 50-year-old former imam of the 1,500-member Islamic Center of New England promised to leave the country Friday night and return to his native Pakistan to avoid being arrested and held in jail for months until he is deported."
"... 'This is a very disturbing case to our office,'' he (Masood's attorney Zalkind) told Judge Douglas P. Woodlock as Masood sat silently next to Zalkind during a brief sentencing hearing. 'His family has been living in the country for 20 years. He is totally petrified of going back to Pakistan.' ...''I don't know what you want me to do,'' the judge said. 'The defendant was convicted of a crime.' ''
Thanks for reminder, Judge. US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan echoes that, saying that "this individual lied to immigration officials a number of times over a number of years."
"...the former spiritual leader of the Islamic Center of New England’s Sharon mosque said he’s worried about returning to Pakistan at a time when violence there is escalating and political tensions are high."
"Imam Masood was detained by federal immigration agents for visa violations in November 2006. The government arrested him on criminal visa fraud charges in August 2007, and has since pursued immigration and criminal cases for the same violations."
"The imam pleaded guilty to five fraud charges in February, setting the stage for his deportation."
The Patriot Ledger page has lots of excellent links about this story. Lambert has followed this case far more than any other reporter, and he's covered lots of angles. Kudos to Lambert and the Patriot Ledger for their coverage.
Scroll down here for my previous postings on Masood and his brother-in-law Abdul Hannan, who were both arrested in November 2006. Kudos to our Immigration and Customs Enforcement folks and our US Attorneys.
From the Pakistani paper Daily Times:
"Imam Muhammad Masood, brother of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, founder of the banned Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, was ordered deported by a Boston, Massachusetts court on Thursday on an immigration violation charge."
"Under an agreement with federal immigration authorities, the former imam of the 1,500-member Islamic Centre of New England agreed to voluntarily leave the United States on Friday night and return to Pakistan rather than be deported by the authorities which would have taken months, a period he would have spent in jail."