Two Iraqi brothers fudged kin­ship to third, face de­por­ta­tion

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - RACHEL WEINER

Eleven years ago, two Iraqi brothers stranded at a refugee camp in Jor­dan made a choice they thought was re­ally no choice at all.

De­ter­mined not to re­turn to a coun­try where they thought they would be killed, they ob­scured their re­la­tion­ship with a third brother, who was ac­cused of ter­ror­ist ties and ul­ti­mately linked to the kid­nap­ping of a U.S. con­trac­tor and oth­ers in Iraq.

The brothers, with their wives and chil­dren, were al­lowed into the United States. And over the past decade, they built a life in Fairfax, Va., find­ing work and mak­ing friends, hav­ing pic­nics and vis­it­ing the zoo. Each brother has two chil­dren born in the United States.

Now, Yousif al-Mash­hadani, 35; his brother, Adil Hasan, 39; and Hasan’s wife, Enas Ibrahim, 32, have been con­victed in fed­eral court in Alexan­dria, Va., on fraud charges. With all three at risk of de­por­ta­tion, friends and sup­port­ers say a good fam­ily is be­ing torn apart and are push­ing for them to be al­lowed to re­main in the coun­try.

“Jus­tice cries out for compassion in this case,” Marie Mon­sen, who worked with the refugees as a church vol­un­teer, wrote in a let­ter to the court.

Fed­eral prose­cu­tors said they pur­sued the cases in hopes of catch­ing Ma­jid al-Mash­hadani, who the gov­ern­ment be­lieves was in­volved in the kid­nap­ping and had been re­leased from prison in Iraq af­ter only a cou­ple of years. But au­thor­i­ties have given no in­di­ca­tion that the three refugees have pro­vided use­ful in­for­ma­tion about the crime or Ma­jid al-Mash­hadani’s where­abouts.

“I’m not sure how it ac­com­plished any­thing,” said Ibrahim’s at­tor­ney, Lana Manitta. “I don’t think they’re any closer to get­ting the an­swers they need.”

Judge Leonie Brinkema last month sen­tenced the brothers to only the three months they have spent in jail for their crimes but ac­knowl­edged that they would be trans­ferred im­me­di­ately to im­mi­gra­tion cus­tody.

“This is a tragic case,” she said in court. “But the law is what it is.”

She ques­tioned why Ibrahim, who has not yet been sen­tenced, was tar­geted at all. She was pros­e­cuted in large part to give “in­cen­tives for her hus­band and brother-in­law to give in­for­ma­tion on the kid­nap­ping and tor­ture of an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen,” As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Gor­don Kromberg said in court.

He said she was also “com­plicit” in the de­ci­sion to lie to a United Na­tions refugee agency.

The brothers and their fam­i­lies fled Iraq in 2006, when sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence in the coun­try was at its height. When the fam­ily ar­rived in Jor­dan, Ibrahim was preg­nant with her first child. She and her sis­ter Rashad, Yousif al-Mash­hadani’s wife, both had their first chil­dren at the refugee camp.

While plead­ing guilty, Hasan ex­plained his fear of be­ing sent back to Iraq.

“I am Sunni, and I will be killed by the Sun­nis be­cause I was work­ing in the Green Zone,” he said. “The Shi­ites will kill me be­cause I am Sunni.”

Both brothers had worked for a U.S.-sup­ported anti-cor­rup­tion agency in Iraq known at the time as the Com­mis­sion on Public In­tegrity. Dozens of their co-work­ers were as­sas­si­nated to keep in­ves­ti­ga­tions from com­ing to fruition.

In court, Hasan said he per­son­ally knew 56 peo­ple who had been killed. Ac­cord­ing to court fil­ings, 65 mem­bers of the watch­dog agency have been as­sas­si­nated. Arthur Bren­nan, who worked on cor­rup­tion in Iraq for the State De­part­ment in 2007, wrote to the judge that Iraqis con­nected to law en­force­ment at the time were “in an ex­tremely dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion.”

Hasan has pleaded guilty to nat­u­ral­iza­tion fraud, Mash­hadani to con­spir­acy to com­mit im­mi­gra­tion fraud. Both agreed to co­op­er­ate with im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties. Ibrahim ad­mit­ted ly­ing about her in­come to se­cure a car loan two years ago, a charge that does not au­to­mat­i­cally trig­ger de­por­ta­tion pro­ceed­ings. The fam­i­lies de­clined to com­ment.

An­other brother, ac­cord­ing to court fil­ings, listed Ma­jid al-Mash­hadani on his im­mi­gra­tion pa­pers and is now a U.S. cit­i­zen.

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