Two federal appellate courts refused to block the deportation of a Saudi dissident suspected of involvement in the 1996 attack that killed 19 U.S. airmen in Saudi Arabia. Justice Department officials prepared to expel him.
Yesterday afternoon, without comment, three judges of the federal circuit court in Atlanta denied Hani Abdel Rahim Sayegh's emergency motion to delay being sent to Saudi Arabia for trial.
"As far as we're concerned, the courts have spoken, and there are no stays preventing us from deporting Mr. al-Sayegh," said a Justice Department official, who requested anonymity.
The department originally intended to expel Sayegh on Wednesday. After he appealed, it promised to wait until today or until the courts acted on his last-minute appeals. Justice officials, however, discounted the chances for acting today. "It's possible that it's a matter of days before he's gone," one Justice official said last evening.
Sayegh could appeal to the full circuit court in Washington or in Atlanta or to the Supreme Court, but it appeared that only a court-ordered stay, not merely the filing of an appeal, would delay his deportation.
Sayegh was seeking asylum in the United States on grounds that he would be tortured if he were returned to Saudi Arabia because he was a politically active opponent of the monarchy. The deportation order was issued after Sayegh backed out of a deal to help U.S. agents investigate the June 1996 bombing at the Khobar Towers complex near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.