LOS ANGELES – A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that a judge did not err in granting U.S. citizenship to two Armenian men convicted more than 20 years ago of planning to bomb the Turkish Consulate (search) in Philadelphia.
The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (search) ends a long struggle by Viken Hovsepian and Viken Yacoubian, who plotted to bomb the consulate in retaliation for the mass killings of Armenians during Ottoman rule in 1915.
The men, who have been out of prison since the early 1990s, now have doctorates, have renounced violence and are volunteers in the Armenian-American community, said Mathew Millen, an attorney who helped handle the immigration portion of their case.
Federal law currently forbids convicted terrorists from becoming citizens. But anyone convicted of an aggravated felony before November 1990 can be granted citizenship if they have been "of good moral character" for five years prior to their application, Millen said.
The federal government fought the citizenship application, contending the men lied on certain portions of their applications. The 9th Circuit affirmed Tuesday a lower court opinion that the alleged "lies" were actually misunderstandings or oversights.
"We accept the court's ruling, as we do with any ruling," said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles.
The men were in their early 20s when they and two others were arrested in 1982 after authorities tape-recorded them planning the bombing.
Hovsepian was sentenced to six years in prison in 1984, while Yacoubian was sentenced to three years in prison and 1,000 hours of community service.