The Trump administration has moved to strip American citizenship from a man convicted 14 years ago of being involved in an al-Qaida plot in New York.
Federal prosecutors led by a Trump appointee filed on Monday a rare denaturalization lawsuit against Iyman Faris, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for conspiring to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge.
Faris, a 47-year-old Pakistan native who worked as a truck driver in Columbus, Ohio, is accused of illegally obtaining citizenship in 1999 by falsely swearing allegiance to the US.
The government alleged that by affiliating with al-Qaida, Faris had retrospectively proven himself “not attached to the principles of the constitution” and “not well disposed to the good order and happiness” of the country, as new citizens must promise to be.
Faris is also accused of entering the US on another man’s passport in 1994 and failing to disclose past involvement in military combat in Kashmir and Afghanistan in the 1980s, along with connections to jihadist groups in Bosnia and Pakistan.
Monday’s lawsuit was submitted in the names of Chad Reader, who is an acting assistant attorney general and former lawyer for Trump’s presidential campaign, along with Donald Boyce, the US attorney for southern Illinois, where Faris is serving his prison sentence.
Appearing to suggest that similar lawsuits would be brought in other cases, Reader said in a statement that the US government “will continue to pursue denaturalization proceedings against known or suspected terrorists who procured their citizenship by fraud”.
Spokespeople for the Department of Justice did not respond to questions about the involvement of Jeff Sessions, the new US attorney general, in the decision to proceed with action against Faris.
Faris pleaded guilty to plotting with senior al-Qaida operatives to bring down the bridge to avoid more severe charges. Prosecutors said in court filings that in late 2000 he met Osama bin Laden and the September 11 ringleader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Although such actions are relatively rare, the US government is authorized under immigration law to revoke citizenship from a naturalized citizen if he or she is found to have illegally obtained the citizenship or obtained it by making false representations.
Prosecutors in Oregon are seeking a similar denaturalization against Mohamed Sheikh Abdirahman Kariye, the imam of what is said to have been Portland’s biggest mosque, for alleged ties to a jihadist plot. The court case, which began in July 2015, is ongoing.