CA: MEN OKD TO RETURN TO U.S. FROM PAKISTAN
Two relatives of a Lodi man who was convicted of supporting terrorists have been cleared to return home from a long trip to Pakistan, ending a five-month standoff in which the U.S. citizens were told they had to cooperate with the FBI to get off the government's no-fly list, a federal law enforcement official said Tuesday.
"There's been a change," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity and would not detail the reason for the move, which was made by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Lodi residents Muhammad Ismail, a 45-year-old naturalized citizen born in Pakistan, and his 18-year-old son, Jaber Ismail, who was born in the United States, were never charged with a crime. But they are the uncle and cousin of Hamid Hayat, 23, who was convicted in April of supporting terrorists by attending a Pakistani training camp and is awaiting sentencing.
McGregor Scott, the U.S. attorney for California's Eastern District, confirmed last month that the men were on the government-maintained list that bars some people from flying on airlines to or from the United States.
"They've been given the opportunity to meet with the FBI over there and answer a few questions," Scott said, "and they've declined to do that."
Julia Harumi Mass, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who filed a complaint with the Homeland Security Department on behalf of the Ismails, said when told of the government's reported change of heart that the men would probably book a flight home soon.
She said the two received a letter from Homeland Security last week stating that their records had been "modified to address any delay or denial of boarding." The letter, though, did not make clear whether they could fly.
"If that's true, it's very good news," Mass said. "The fact that the government has retreated from its position after we filed our administrative claims, and the public became aware of it, highlights how plainly wrong it was to require the Ismails to give up their constitutional rights in order to come home."