U.S. may deport radical Muslim cleric Linked to N.Y. Trade Center bombing suspects


NEW YORK -- On the day when a federal grand jury indicted two men in the World Trade Center bombing, an Immigration and Naturalization Service official ruled that the radical Muslim cleric linked to the suspects could be deported.

Daniel Meisner of the Executive Office of Immigration Review ruled yesterday that Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman did not tell the INS that he was a polygamist and had been convicted of falsifying a check in his native Egypt in 1987.

The 25-page decision by Meisner, an administrative judge with the INS, was not released because Mr. Rahman had earlier requested that the proceedings be held behind closed doors.

However, an INS official said current plans were for the agency to send Mr. Rahman back to his native Egypt if the order is upheld on appeal.

Barbara Nelson, the attorney representing Mr. Rahman, 54, in the case, said he plans to appeal the ruling within the next 10 days as required under INS procedure.

She said she would be talking with Mr. Rahman about the possibility of making the decision public and would not comment further about its contents.

Mr. Rahman, who was said to be in Los Angeles yesterday, could not be reached for comment.

However, in an interview scheduled to be broadcast tonight on ABC's "PrimeTime Live," Mr. Rahman indicated that he was not concerned about going back to Egypt, even though he is a sworn enemy of President Hosni Mubarak.

"If I go to Egypt and was imprisoned, this would be a good opportunity for me to meditate and to learn and to worship God. And if I was killed, I will be a martyr in the cause of God," Mr. Rahman told correspondent Chris Wallace.

During any appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals in Virginia, Mr. Rahman will not be subject to deportation. Ms. Nelson said that an appeal can take between four months to two years.

L Further appeals also can be taken to federal district court.

Mr. Rahman has not been accused of any wrongdoing in the Feb. 26 bombing and has condemned the incident.

However, he is the spiritual leader of the violent Gamaat Islamiya, or Islamic Group, which has been accused of terrorist attacks in Egypt. Mr. Rahman has preached at the Jersey City, N.J., mosque reportedly frequented by Mohammed Salameh, 25, the first man arrested for involvement in the bombing.

Mr. Salameh and Nidal Ayyad, 25, who also is reported to have visited Rahman's Jersey City mosque, were indicted yesterday on federal charges that they were involved in the World Trade Center blast.

Mr. Rahman first entered the United States in 1990 after officials granted him a tourist visa even though he was on a special watch list of potential terrorists.

He was acquitted during a trial in Egypt of involvement in the murder of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981.

The latest INS proceedings against Mr. Rahman stem from an attempt in July 1991 to regain admission to the United States through John F. Kennedy Airport.

At that time the agency challenged Mr. Rahman's claim to legal residency, said the INS.

In March 1992, Mr. Rahman's green card was revoked after he failed to respond to allegations that he had made false statements on his residence application, said the agency.

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