JERICHO, West Bank – The Palestinian man who befriended a 16-year-old Michigan girl through the MySpace.com Web site and invited her to join him in Jericho said he is heartbroken by U.S. authorities' decision to send her back home.
Abdullah Jimzawi, 20, told The Associated Press that his love for Katherine Lester, of Gilford, Mich., was pure and they planned to marry. The music buff, who spends at least 10 hours a day on the Internet, decried attempts to portray him as an Internet predator.
"We love the same things, the same songs and we have similar dreams. I fell in love with her because she is innocent and goodhearted. We found ourselves as soul mates," he told the AP on Sunday at his family's comfortable house.
Jericho, a town of 17,000, is largely immune from the violence and mayhem plaguing the rest of the West Bank.
Jimzawi, a high school dropout with close-cropped hair, a two-day beard and large, dark eyes, said Katherine was willing to convert to Islam and that the pair remain in close contact, speaking to each other at least five hours a day via Internet phone calls.
MySpace.com is a social networking Web site whose enormous popularity with teenagers has raised concerns among U.S. authorities, with scattered accounts of sexual predators targeting minors they meet on the site.
Jimzawi works in his father's business delivering goods to minimarkets and has never gotten into trouble.
Earlier this month, Katherine boarded a flight to Israel after slipping out of her mother's house. At a stopover in Amman, Jordan, U.S. authorities seized her passport and sent her back home.
Had Katherine made it to Jericho, Jimzawi said, she would have slept in his sister's bedroom, not his. He said he would have walked with her through the tree-lined streets of Jericho, and his family would have celebrated her 17th birthday together on June 21.
"When I realized she wasn't coming I felt my whole world collapse," he said. "My tears didn't stop and I couldn't sleep for three days."
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