Supporters rally behind influential imam in Newark
(05/08/08) NEWARK ? An influential Muslim cleric who is facing deportation arrived at a federal courthouse in Newark Thursday as supporters demonstrated across the street.
Immigration authorities say Mohammad Qatanani did not disclose a conviction in an Israeli military court on his citizenship application. Qatanani was accused of being a member of Hamas. However, the imam claims he was convicted in absentia and not notified. A spokesperson for Qatanani also says he didn't believe he lied on his application because the Israeli action was a detainment, and not an actual arrest.
Qatanani, who has been in the U.S. since 1996, has headed the Islamic Center of Passaic County. He arrived at the courthouse with his wife and six children. Supporters chanted in Arabic and carried signs and U.S. flags as he arrived.
Thursday marked the first day of testimony in the case, and the imam could take the stand Friday. The hearing on Qatanani's possible deportation is expected to last through Monday.