Feds Sue to Strip al-Qaida Conspirator’s Citizenship

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (CN) – The Justice Department filed court papers Monday to revoke the U.S. citizenship of a man who was convicted in 2003 of conspiring to help al-Qaida destroy the Brooklyn Bridge.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint to revoke naturalization against Iyman Faris in East St Louis, Ill., federal court, claiming he unlawfully procured American citizenship in 1999.

Faris, a 47-year-old native of Pakistan and former resident of Cleveland, is currently serving a 20-year sentence for his role in an al-Qaida plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge.

According to Monday’s complaint, Faris came to the United States in March 1994 using a passport and visa belonging to another person whom he had previously met in Bosnia.

Prosecutors say he then filed for asylum but lied on the application, falsely stating that he had not traveled through or resided in any other country before entering the United States.

In late 2000, while visiting Pakistan, Faris traveled to Afghanistan and met al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden and a senior al-Qaida operational leader at a terrorist training camp, the complaint states.

At their request, prosecutors say Faris researched information about ultra-light aircraft and knowingly provided that information to the terrorist group.

In late December 2001, Faris reportedly visited a travel agency in Pakistan while in disguise and sought to obtain extensions on airline tickets for various other people, knowing that the tickets were for use by al-Qaida members.

Months later, Faris again met with the same senior al-Qaida operational leader, who asked him to procure the equipment necessary to destroy a bridge in New York City and derail a train, according to the complaint.

“In response to this request, defendant researched the operation of ‘gas gutters,’ also known as ‘blow torches,’ for possible use in severing bridge suspension cables, and traveled to the target bridge in late 2002 to examine the bridge. Determining that the plot was unlikely to succeed, defendant then communicated his assessment by coded message to the senior al Qaeda operation leader,” the complaint states.

Faris pleaded guilty in May 2003 to conspiring to provide, and providing, material support to al-Qaida. A federal judge in Virginia sentenced him to 20 years in prison.

The Justice Department says in its denaturalization lawsuit that Faris’ lies on his naturalization application and affiliation with the terrorist group require that his U.S. citizenship be revoked.

“Defendant’s affiliation with al Qaeda is sufficient to authorize the revocation and setting aside of the order admitting defendant to citizenship, and the cancellation of his certificate of naturalization, as having been obtained by concealment of a material fact or by willful misrepresentation,” the complaint states.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler said in a statement that the Justice Department “will continue to pursue denaturalization proceedings against known or suspected terrorists who procured their citizenship by fraud.”

“The U.S. government is dedicated to strengthening the security of our nation and preventing the exploitation of our nation’s immigration system by those who would do harm to our country,” Readler said.

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