Followers of a prominent imam have raised nearly $100,000 to help him fight deportation, according to a published report.
Mohammad Qatanani has been refused a green card by immigration authorities who said he did not disclose on a previous application that he was arrested in Israel in 1993 and convicted of assisting Hamas militants.
Most of the money was raised by his congregation at the Islamic Center of Passaic County, according to The Record of Bergen County. Qatanani told the newspaper that he recently submitted a new application for permanent residency after congregants urged him to do so.
A trial is scheduled for May in Newark.
Qatanani's lawyer, Claudia Slovinsky, told the newspaper that Qatanani was arrested by Israeli authorities in 1993 and interrogated for three months but that he was let go without being notified that he had been charged or convicted.
Qatanani said he was questioned about Palestinian students he'd helped to go to Jordan for schooling. His questioners implied links between some of the students and Hamas. Qatanani denied those ties.
Among those who have written to Immigration Judge Alberto Riefkohl on Qatanani's behalf is U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., who has visited Qatanani's mosque.
"I have seen and heard him foster only tolerant, peaceful, interfaith, ecumenical relations," Pascrell told the newspaper. (MORE)