Joyous Supporters Greet Imam

September 4, 2008

Author: Elizabeth Llorente

Source: The Record

A prominent Muslim cleric, celebrated for his moderation by supporters but accused of ties to a terrorist group by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, today won his bid to call the United States his permanent home.

In his 69-page decision, Immigration Judge Alberto Riefkohl said Homeland Security officials had presented a case weak on evidence and credibility in their effort to cast Imam Mohammad Qatanani as someone who had had ties to Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist organization, and who had lied about it to obtain a so-called green card here.

Riefkohl, often using blunt language in his written decision, said that records obtained by Homeland Security officials from Israeli authorities were “too unreliable to prove that Mr. Qatanani has engaged in terrorist activities.”

He added: “The court also finds DHS’s other evidence is insufficient.”

With little ado and comment, the judge handed his written decision to Qatanani’s attorney, Claudia Slovinsky of Manhattan, and attorneys for Homeland Security. Slovinsky quickly glimpsed at the last page, where the judge stated his conclusion, and read it to Qatanani and more than a dozen supporters who had gathered around them. The imam, his eyes brimming with tears, hugged Slovinsky.