Terrorism Convict's Family Held for Deportation

By Robin Shulman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 11, 2007

NEW YORK, Jan. 10 -- A day after a man was sentenced to 30 years in prison for conspiring to bomb Manhattan's Herald Square, his parents and sister were detained by federal immigration officials seeking to deport them.

Shahwar Matin Siraj, 24, was sentenced Monday afternoon for plotting to blow up a subway station in the Midtown shopping district known for its Macy's store. Early Tuesday morning, his family was arrested at its home in Jackson Heights, Queens.

Police officials hailed the sentencing of Siraj, a Pakistani immigrant, as a victory against homegrown terrorism.

But Siraj contended that he was entrapped by a police informant, who he said inflamed his anger at the United States by showing him photographs of American acts of abuse against Muslims, including incidents at the Abu Ghraib prison, and prodded him to consider violence. The informant, Osama Eldawoody, was recruited by the New York City Police Department after Sept. 11, 2001, to monitor radical Muslims in the city.

Siraj never obtained explosives, nor made a timetable for an attack. He has no known connection to any terrorist organization.

His family has lived in the United States since 1999 and has been seeking asylum since 2003, said their attorney, Mona Shah.

A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that detained the family, said that a final order of removal has been issued against the father, Siraj Abdul Rehman, 54. But Shah said that case is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

The immigration cases of Siraj's mother, Shahina Parveen, 50, and his sister, Sanya Siraj, 19, are dependent on the father's case, Shah said.

Mark Thorn, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman, could not say why the family was detained the day after the sentencing.

"The administrative arrests were timed so they would not conflict with the criminal prosecution or sentencing," he said.

But Shah charged that the arrests effectively muted the family's protest after the sentencing of the son.

"It's not American, to punish one person and the next day arrest the entire family," Shah said. "This is basically silencing them."

The family is being held at a detention facility in Elizabeth, N.J.

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