A Maryland man believed to be the youngest person ever convicted of US terrorism charges may not be deported to Pakistan because he would likely face torture there by government officials, an American judge has ruled.
Mohammed H. Khalid, who legally moved from Pakistan with his family to suburban Baltimore as a young teenager, was arrested in 2011 at age 17 as part of the failed “Jihad Jane” conspiracy to murder a Swedish artist who had committed blasphemy.
Khalid pleaded guilty to terrorism charges and co-operated with the FBI more than 20 times, teaching US agents how to combat online jihadists, records show. But when his five-year sentence concluded late last year, US officials sought to deport him to Pakistan, a move his lawyers said would likely subject him to torture.
“This is a huge victory – immigration judges do this in one percent of the cases when someone argues they will be tortured if sent home,” said Khalid’s lawyer, Wayne Sachs of Philadelphia.
In his decision, Immigration Judge Michael Straus wrote that Khalid “would more likely than not be tortured by government officials if returned to Pakistan.” The ruling is dated April 8, but another lawyer for Khalid, Jeffrey Lindy, said it was not made public until late Friday.
A spokesman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement was not immediately available for comment The judge also cited Khalid’s diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism disorder that can affect focus and communication skills.
The judge wrote that Khalid “fears his lack of eye contact and social cues would cause the Pakistan government to believe (he) is hiding something, leading to more torture.”
Khalid remains in US custody, pending a hearing on whether he can live in the United States or may be deported to another country, Sachs said. Now 22 years old, Khalid was a high-achieving but socially-misfit high school junior when he met Colleen LaRose, the Pennsylvania woman known as “Jihad Jane,” online. Reuters