Seattle imam faces deportation to Somalia

On June 1, after six months in detention–with much of that time spent in solitary confinement–Seattle Muslim leader Abrahim Sheikh Mohamed gave up his legal battle against deportation. Mohamed was arrested Nov. 14 on immigration violations at Sea-Tac Airport, where he’d just arrived on a domestic flight. For five years before his arrest, Mohamed led prayers as imam of the Abu-Bakr mosque in Rainier Valley, and he is well-respected in the local Somali community. Although he has not been charged with any terrorism-related crimes, FBI agents and other witnesses–including a local restaurant owner–testified at Mohamed’s bond hearing last February that the imam had ties to terrorism and was raising money for al-Itihaad a-Islamiya, an alleged Somali terrorist group. More than 200 people rallied in support of Mohamed outside the bond hearing. Immigration Judge Victoria Young concluded that Mohamed was a threat to national security and denied bond.

Immigration prosecutors say Mohamed is a citizen of Kenya, not Somalia as he has claimed, and accuse him of lying about his identity to gain asylum. Authorities claim to have obtained identity and passport-application documents showing Mohamed is from Kenya. His lawyer, Hilary Han, said Mohamed applied for such documents in Kenya but is in fact a native of Somalia and likely would have been able to prove it if he had continued his legal fight. At the June 1 hearing, Young ordered that Mohamed be deported to Kenya–if the US government can prove he is Kenyan, and the Kenyan government agrees to accept him. If not, Young ordered that Mohamed be deported to Somalia. A deportation hearing has been scheduled for later in June. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 2; Seattle Times, June 2)

The US government has not successfully deported anyone to Somalia since Feb. 14, 2002, when it rushed to send 30 Somali nationals to Mogadishu on a charter flight before Minneapolis federal judge John Tunheim could issue a ruling blocking such removals. On Jan. 12, 2005, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Minneapolis resident Keyse Jama could be deported to Somalia although the country lacked a functioning government which could agree to accept him. In April 2005 the US government tried to deport Jama to Somalia’s Puntland region, apparently by hiring a private security company to negotiate with warlords there. That effort failed, and Jama was returned to the US. He was released from detention last July on order of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

From Immigration News Briefs, June 18

See also:




See our last posts on the immigration crackdown and on Somalia.