Judge Staci M. Yandle of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois entered an order revoking the naturalized U.S. citizenship of Iyman Faris, a 50-year-old Pakistan native who was convicted in 2003 of providing, and conspiring to provide, material support to al-Qaeda and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Among his actions in support of the terror organization, Faris “evaluated the practicality of a plot to collapse the Brooklyn Bridge in New York using gas cutters,” and communicated “his assessment to al-Qaeda via coded messages.”
The convicted terrorist also traveled to Afghanistan in 2000 where he met former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden as well as other high-ranking members of the group at an al-Qaeda training camp. While there, Faris allegedly researched information about ultralight airplanes for a senior al-Qaeda leader, and arranged for airline tickets to be issued to al-Qaeda operatives, according to the statement.
The court this week found that Faris was not eligible for naturalization in the United States because he had “unlawfully procured his citizenship through wilful misrepresentation of material facts,” while his admission to his affiliation with al-Qaeda within five years after naturalizing showed that he was “not attached to the principles of the Constitution,” at the time he was naturalized.
Faris was also found ineligible for naturalization because he had lied to immigration officers and used another person’s passport and visa to gain fraudulent entry into the United States in 1994. The convicted terrorist first came to the United States from Bosnia claiming asylum, according to National Review.
“A top priority at the Department of Justice is protecting our national security, and one of the things we do in support of that goal is tirelessly pursue denaturalization of known and suspected terrorists,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.
“What Faris did is unconscionable—he pretended to support the United States and the Constitution to naturalize while he actively supported Osama bin Laden and senior al-Qaeda leadership in their plans to attack the United States. The denaturalization of Faris and of others who similarly defraud the United States helps defend the integrity of the immigration system, promote the rule of law, and make America safer.”
Faris is currently serving his criminal sentence at the U.S. Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, and is expected to be released in August 2020. However, due to the denaturalization, he may be removed from the country.
Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft for the Southern District of Illinois said that becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen is a “privilege” and “the process must be guarded for the safety of our nation and to protect and recognize the sacrifices, determination, and honor of those who earn that privilege honestly.”
It comes a month after the United States reportedly conducted a strike targeting Qassim al-Rimi, the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an affiliate in Yemen that has repeatedly threatened attacks targeting the United States and is considered among the most dangerous branches of al-Qaeda.