FBI tries to deport Muslim man for refusing to be an informant

After Imam Foad Farahi declined to become a federal informant, the government tried to destroy him.

Farahi, desperate not to leave the country but frightened after government agents threatened to charge him as a terrorist, hired Kurzban to take his case on appeal.

In November 2007, Kurzban asked the Board of Immigration Appeals to throw out Farahi's voluntary departure order and reopen his political asylum case, arguing the imam was illegally intimidated. The board denied the request, so Kurzban petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Farahi's order of voluntary departure has been stayed.

For now, the legal battle makes Farahi a kind of no-land's man. He no longer has an official immigration status in the United States, and in asking for political asylum, he has rejected his Iranian citizenship. As he was in Kuwait, Farahi is home in a land that could expel him at any time.

Imam Foad Farahi says he turned down the FBI's invitation to be an informant.
C. Stiles
Imam Foad Farahi says he turned down the FBI's invitation to be an informant.
Now the local Muslim leader and his attorney, Ira Kurzban (shown), are fighting the government's efforts to deport him to Iran.
C. Stiles
Now the local Muslim leader and his attorney, Ira Kurzban (shown), are fighting the government's efforts to deport him to Iran.

"I think the real issue is, does the government have the right to pressure people... to make them informants?" Kurzban says. "It's clearly modus operandi of the FBI to (a) recruit people who are going to be informants and (b) to use whatever leverage they can."

A few weeks later, in North Miami Beach, Ramadan is nearing its end. For Farahi, this year's religious festival marks nearly five years since the FBI first asked him to be an informant. "I'm not bitter about what has happened," the imam insists.

Dressed in khaki pants and a white button-down shirt, he walks barefoot through the mosque as members begin to arrange food on folding banquet tables. After sundown, everyone will eat and drink together to break the fast. Farahi is distracted as he waves at attendees and hugs others entering the mosque.

"I'm not bitter," he repeats after a few moments. "I wouldn't say I'm bitter at all. But I'm tired. I want to live my life in this country. I want to stay here. That's all."

Farahi stops and waves to another man. The imam shakes his head quickly. "I wish the case would be over," he says. "I just wish I could stay here."

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