Testimony: Disclosure could bring cleric's deportation

(05/09/08) NEWARK - A voluntary disclosure from a respected Muslim religious leader is being used by immigration authorities seeking to deport him. Mohammad Qatanani is the imam of a Paterson mosque, the Islamic Center of Passaic County. Immigration officials claim he didn't disclose a 1993 conviction in Israel on his application for permanent U.S. residency. But the imam's lawyers dispute the authenticity and contents of Israeli documents that U.S. officials obtained. Qatanani also contends he was detained, not arrested, by Israeli authorities, and wasn't aware of any conviction. He also says he was subjected to physical and mental abuse while in detention. A federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent testified Friday that she started deportation proceedings based on information voluntarily provided by Qatanani during a meeting that he had initiated in 2005. Qatanani's supporters said the imam had reached out to federal officials that year to determine why his 1999 application for permanent U.S. residency had been delayed.

Supporters rally behind influential imam in Newark

 

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