U.S. REVOKES Citizenship of Controversial Portland Mosque’s Imam

The right move?


Big news out today in Portland, as reported by OregonLive.com, the local newspaper.

Mohamed Sheikh Abdirahman Kariye, the former imam of Portland’s largest mosque, was allowed to travel back to his homeland of Somaliland this weekend, and once there, the United States has revoked his citizenship. 

It’s reported that the government had arranged for Kariye, who was on the government’s ‘no fly list,’’ to travel back to his homeland after reaching a settlement agreement with him in January.

Here are more details, from OregonLive:

The U.S. government has revoked the U.S. citizenship of the former imam of Portland’s largest mosque after he arrived in Somaliland last week.

Mohamed Sheikh Abdirahman Kariye is on the government’s no-fly list, but the government arranged for him to travel back to his homeland after reaching a settlement with Kariye in January.

Under the deal, Kariye agreed not to challenge an order revoking his citizenship and acknowledged having provided false information to immigration officials in July 1997 when he had applied for U.S. naturalization.

The settlement appeared to be briefly in jeopardy Monday morning, when Kariye’s lawyers asked to rescind it after learning that Kariye had been detained during a stopover at the Dubai airport.

Kariye, 57, boarded a flight last Wednesday from Seattle for a 14-hour flight to Dubai and a planned flight four days later to Somaliland.

He arrived in Dubai as scheduled, according to court records, but soon sent his Oregon-based lawyers a text from the airport that read, “some thing is wrong.’’

Kariye was detained and interrogated for seven hours in the Dubai airport by United Arab Emirates officials and questioned about the “Portland Seven,’’ the As-Saber Mosque in Southwest Portland and others who may have attended services there, according to his lawyers. He wasn’t allowed to contact his attorneys during the questioning and all his personal belongings were seized, according to his lawyers, Philip Smith and Nicole Nelson.

In October, federal government lawyers told a federal appeals court that Kariye was placed on the no-fly list based on his history as a "mujahedeen fighter in Afghanistan against the Russians,'' as well as his expressed support for "violent jihad'' in conversations recorded between a cooperating informant and two members of the Portland Seven. They were a group of American Muslims from the Portland area who were prosecuted and convicted of trying to join al-Qaida forces in their fight against the United States military and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The U.S. sought to strip Kariye of his U.S. citizenship because he "provided false information and both willfully misrepresented and concealed material facts’' when applying for naturalization to the United States.

During the process, the FBI informed U.S. Justice Department attorneys that Kariye had coordinated with Osama bin Laden and other known terrorist leaders and was associated with terrorist organizations including Makhtab Al-Khidamat, or MAK, a designated terrorist organization and pre-cursor to al-Qaida.

"The parties agreed denaturalization was appropriate, following which Kariye agreed to depart the United States,'' said Kevin Sonoff, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Kariye ultimately was able to fly to Hargeisa, Somaliland. He arrived last Friday.

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This has been a longstanding effort by the government.

Here is what CBS News reported back in 2015 on the Imam:

U.S. authorities are seeking to revoke the citizenship of an Oregon imam who they say tried to conceal past associations with radical Islamic groups.

Mohamed Sheikh Abdirahman Kariye raised money, recruited fighters and provided training for insurgent groups battling Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the U.S. Department of Justice says in a complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Portland.

Kariye was one of more than a dozen people who filed a lawsuit challenging the no-fly list, winning last year a court order saying the government must provide information about why people are on the list.

The immigration complaint does not include criminal charges. Government lawyers say Kariye for a time "dealt directly" with Osama bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam, the founders of al-Qaida, and he recruited sympathizers in the United States and Pakistan for an al-Qaida precursor known as Maktab Al-Khidamat.

Kariye is also accused of being a founding officer and director of the now-defunct Global Relief Foundation, which authorities say provided assistance to terror groups including al-Qaida and promoted radical jihad.

Federal authorities say Kariye failed to reveal those details in his application for citizenship, which was granted in 1998.

Attempts to reach Kariye through his Portland mosque and a former attorney were not immediately successful.

Born in Somalia, Kariye came to the United States on a student visa in 1982, according to the complaint. Between 1985 and 1988, he traveled to Afghanistan, where he went to a jihadist training camp and fought with the Afghan mujahedeen against the Soviets. He helped process foreign fighters arriving in Pakistan for travel to training camps, authorities say, working directly with bin Laden and Azzam. At some point, he was arrested for his involvement with the mujahedeen and spent four months in a Pakistani prison.

After returning to the United States in 1988, he applied for asylum and swore under oath that he hadn't left the country or been arrested.

The Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989, but the complaint alleges that Kariye returned to Pakistan in 1990 and worked for three years to recruit sympathizers and raise funds for Maktab Al-Khidamat, the precursor of al-Qaida. He was listed as the Oregon point of contact on a 1994 flyer advertising a nationwide fundraising tour for Afghan jihad.

As the longtime leader at Portland's largest mosque, Masjed As-Saber, Kariye is a well-known figure in the city's Islamic community. It was not immediately clear Monday whether Kariye is still the mosque's imam.

Local Muslims have known for years of the FBI's interest in him.

Kariye was arrested at Portland International Airport in 2002 by an FBI-led anti-terrorism task force. He pleaded guilty to using a fraudulent Social Security number and defrauding the state Medicaid program by lying about his income to receive state-funded health insurance. A federal judge sentenced him to five years on probation.

In a 2003 affidavit, the FBI said it believed Kariye provided support to seven Muslims who tried unsuccessfully to join the Taliban in fighting U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He was never charged.

Kariye was one of 10 people who in 2010 sued the federal government over their placement on the no-fly list. Eight others have since joined the case.

Also in 2015, TheNation reported this about the Imam:

Three days before the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks, a Muslim cleric arrived at the airport in Portland, Oregon, with his four children, a brother, several thousand dollars in cash, and tickets to the United Arab Emirates. Inside the terminal, federal agents and local cops surrounded them and arrested the cleric, a Somali-born American citizen named Sheikh Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye. The following day, a customs inspector testified in court that two checked bags containing Kariye’s personal items tested positive for explosives. The judge ruled Kariye a flight risk and denied bail. The cleric would spend the next five weeks in custody.

Kariye leads Masjed As-Saber, a Portland mosque that had been infiltrated by an undercover informant months before his arrest. The operation was part of a case later known as the Portland Seven—one of the first major domestic terror prosecutions following 9/11. Kariye was never charged with a terrorism-related offense, but in the eyes of the federal government, he’s never been exonerated. Nearly 15 years after his initial arrest, both he and his Portland community continue to be the subject of intense interest from the government’s counterterrorism apparatus. In July, prosecutors moved to strip Kariye of his citizenship, claiming that he lied to immigration authorities about his alleged prior affiliations with terrorist groups.

Dig beneath the surface of the government’s portrait of Kariye, however, and it’s possible to see him not as a national-security threat but as an object of obsession—as well as a case study in the way that domestic counterterrorism operations since 9/11 have singled out Muslims for intrusive surveillance and selective prosecution, based on things they’ve said, people they’ve known, and things they could do in the future.

In the wake of the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, counterterrorism officials are recalibrating their strategy to better identify isolated threats. There have been calls for the increased surveillance of Muslim communities, based on an assumption that Islamic radicalism is more dangerous than other kinds. Kariye’s case presents something of a cautionary tale. It’s not clear that the relentless pursuit of the imam, as well as the seemingly lengthy surveillance of other worshippers at his mosque, has made Portland or the rest of the country any safer. Instead, it has alienated the Muslim community in Portland and discouraged it from cooperating with law enforcement.

“I don’t think there’s any room for debate that there’s been a disproportionate amount of attention paid to the Muslim community in Portland,” says Gadeir Abbas, an attorney at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) who has represented several Oregon Muslims. “As far as I can tell, there’s nothing particularly distinctive about that Muslim community compared to the thousands of others across the US. The difference is the FBI’s approach.”

* * *

Masjed As-Saber, a gray stone building trimmed in pink and encircled by a white picket fence, occupies a corner lot in a modest suburb a few miles southwest of Portland. I drove to the mosque early on a gray afternoon in August. It was raining, and the freeway was already clogged with traffic. The population of the metro area has grown by more than 5 percent since 2010, but in spite of the newcomers, it remains the whitest major city in America. High housing prices at its core have driven the majority of immigrants to the outskirts.

Men went in at the mosque’s main entrance; women entered through an unmarked door at the side of the building, ascended a staircase, and removed their shoes on the landing. It was still summer vacation, and the hall was noisy with children. The women greeted one another with hugs and a salutation in Arabic—“Peace be upon you”—then found seats facing a frosted-glass partition in the prayer room or in the hall outside. The service, delivered first in Arabic and then in English, focused on the subject of mercy. As-Saber is one of the largest mosques in the Pacific Northwest, and among the most conservative. Compared to other mosques in the area, it attracts more migrants from North Africa and the Middle East—people too easily profiled as being vulnerable to radicalization.

Kariye was traveling and did not lead the prayer. But one woman told me that a few weeks earlier, he’d spoken about the latest charges against him. “Of course we hear these”—she paused—“things. And, personally, I don’t believe it, because he is not that kind of man.” The whole thing saddened her: “He’s our leader, our imam. He’s the one holding the community together.”

The FBI sees something more sinister in Kariye’s influence. In October 2001, a worshipper at the mosque named Jeffrey Battle and five others traveled to China, hoping to make their way to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban. But they failed to cross the border, so Battle returned to Portland and to As-Saber. The FBI sent an informant to the mosque in the spring of 2002, and Battle and the others were indicted that October, part of a group that became known as the Portland Seven. Attorney General John Ashcroft crowed, “We’ve neutralized a suspected terrorist cell within our borders.”

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U.S. REVOKES Citizenship of Controversial Portland Mosque’s Imam

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