SAN FRANCISCO – A cleric facing immigration charges agreed Monday to be deported to Pakistan (search), a week after being accused of plotting to open a terrorism camp in California to train followers to kill Americans.
Shabbir Ahmed (search), 39, will be deported on charges unrelated to terrorism: that he overstayed his religious-work visa while heading a mosque in Lodi, an agricultural town of 62,000 about 30 miles south of Sacramento.
Ahmed was one of five men from the mosque who were arrested in June after federal authorities secretly recorded conversations over three years. None of the detainees has been charged with crimes of terrorism.
Ahmed's decision not to contest the immigration charge, announced in a tiny immigration courtroom, came a week after immigration judge Anthony Murry (search) called him a "danger to the community" and refused to set bail.
"Mr. Ahmed is ordered removed to Pakistan," Murry said Monday.
An FBI agent testified last week that Ahmed was acting as an intermediary for Usama bin Laden (search) and other terrorists. The agent refused to testify whether Ahmed was a member of a terror group, saying that information was classified.
Defense lawyer Saad Ahmad said his client has no connection to terrorism, but that Ahmed decided not to contest the immigration charge because he could have been incarcerated for years while fighting the allegations.
Ahmad said his client grew to love America but now fears for his safety after being labeled a terrorist.
Ronald LeFevre, chief counsel for the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement bureau in San Francisco, said it served America's interest to have Ahmed deported, rather than charged criminally.
With Monday's development, Ahmed becomes the third of the five men to be removed to Pakistan. Muhammad Adil Khan, another Lodi religious leader, and his son, Muhammad Hassan Adil Khan, stopped contesting immigration charges and were deported Monday.
The other men arrested, Hamid Hayat and his father, Umer, are charged in federal court with lying to authorities.
The son is charged with lying to the FBI about attending a terrorism camp in Pakistan in 2003 and 2004. His father is charged with lying when he denied his son had attended such a camp. Both have pleaded not guilty.