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Saudi once suspected in bombing ordered deported

January 22, 1998
Web posted at: 9:34 p.m. EST (0234 GMT)

From CNN's Terry Frieden

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A U.S. immigration official Thursday ordered the deportation of a Saudi national once accused of playing a role in the deadly Khobar Towers bombing, but he will remain in custody until officials determine whether he will be sent to Saudi Arabia or another country.

Hani al-Sayegh was accused of having played a role in the June 25, 1996, bombing of the U.S. military barracks at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, that killed 19 servicemen.

He was arrested in Canada in March 1997 on the grounds that he represented a security risk. Since he had passed through the United States to get to Canada, he was deported to the United States. Under a plea agreement, al-Sayegh was to admit to conspiracy in a plot to kill U.S. citizens in Saudi Arabia unrelated to the Khobar Towers bombing.

truck bombing
The truck bombing killed 19 U.S. servicemen

But he reneged on that agreement when he got to court in Washington, and the government dropped charges against him, citing a lack of evidence.

Now, Al-Sayegh, a dissident Shiite Muslim opposed to the Saudi monarchy, tells lawyers he did not want to be returned to his homeland because he feared Saudi officials will execute him for terrorist activities. However, by backing out of the deal with the United States, that became a real possibility.

The eastern regional director for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in Burlington, Vermont, ruled Thursday that al-Sayegh is denied legal entry into the United States "for having engaged in terrorist activity."

The agency concluded "there are reasonable grounds to believe that he is engaged in or is likely to engage after entry in terrorist activity," an INS official said.

The State Department may play a role in helping determine whether al-Sayegh is sent back to Saudi Arabia or to another country, the official said.

The INS would not disclose where al-Sayegh was being held, but emphasized he has no right to appeal the order. The U.S. government faces no deadline in reaching a decision on where to send him.


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