Although he entered a plea deal that called for no time behind bars, an Iranian national who abducted his two children from Westminster in 1990 was in federal custody last night facing possible deportation proceedings.
Immigration and Naturalization Service agents arrested Hossein Nasri Ghajari, 52, at the Carroll County Courthouse yesterday after he was allowed to visit with his daughter for a half-hour in a jury room.
Before the meeting, Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. convicted Ghajari of kidnapping his son and daughter and imposed a suspended 10-year prison sentence.
Ghajari knew about the possibility of deportation before he entered the plea bargain yesterday, said his attorney, assistant public defender Brian Green.
"He chose to face this head-on," Mr. Green said.
In a rambling monologue to Judge Burns, Ghajari said his actions five years ago were motivated by a fear that his children were in danger staying with his former wife in Westminster.
"I did not have the intent of hurting the children or the mother of the children," Ghajari said. "I saw my children in a very, very dangerous situation, I did what I thought was best for the children."
During the court hearing, Ghajari looked occasionally at his children. His daughter smiled at him, and his son looked away. The son declined to meet with his father.
Five years ago, Ghajari picked up the children for a weekend visit, and they never returned. When Ghajari's former wife found them, they were living in Tehran with his mother.
Assistant State's Attorney Tracy M. Gilmore said that Ghajari would not allow his former wife, Homayou Tajalibakhsh, to talk with the children.
In May 1993, Ms. Tajalibakhsh went to Iran and asked her children, Simin and Siavash, who were then 7 and 5, whether they wanted to stay in Iran or return to the United States. The children returned to the United States with their mother.
Ghajari stayed in Iran, where he was a university professor and a religious playwright, until later that year.
After the government revoked approval for the staging of his plays, Ghajari went to Edmonton, Alberta, to produce a play for a festival, Mr. Green said.
Last summer, Ghajari flew to New York, where he was arrested on the Carroll kidnapping warrant.
It was unclear when they emigrated to the United States, but the couple broke up in 1988, and Ms. Tajalibakhsh was granted custody of the children.
Ghajari, who retains his Iranian citizenship, faces deportation because he never renewed his work permits, or "green cards," Mr. Green said.
It was unclear yesterday when the INS might determine whether Ghajari will be deported. He could be eligible for release on bond pending deportation proceedings.
If he is deported, Ghajari probably will not be able to return to Iran, Mr. Green said.
Mr. Green said he will appeal the kidnapping conviction.