Federal judge says to Pakistani convict: ‘I want this man out of the country’

Posted Oct. 07, 2013, at 1:56 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — U.S. District Judge Gene Carter wants Zafar Iqbal-Khan out of the United States and back in his native Pakistan.

“I want this man out of the country,” Carter said Monday at the end of what was to have been a sentencing hearing. “He is a threat to its citizens and their property.”

Iqbal-Khan, 41, of Bangor does not have a violent criminal history but has been convicted in Penobscot County on multiple counts of theft, negotiating a worthless instrument and making false statements. He has used several aliases, including the name Bobby Khan, according to court documents.

He was in federal court Monday to be sentenced on one count of willful failure to comply with terms of release under supervision to which he pleaded guilty in March. Carter continued the sentencing for a month to give attorneys an opportunity to file briefs on a sentence-related issue that came up during the hearing.

The delay also would give Iqbal-Khan an opportunity to reach out to Pakistani officials in the U.S., although Carter did not order him to do so.

Dressed in a suit, dress shirt and tie, Iqbal-Khan did not address the judge but did calmly consult with his attorney in English.

The native of Pakistan entered the U.S. in July 1999 on a visitor’s visa but did not leave as required in February 2000. He was deported from the U.S. and ordered removed in September 2005 after being convicted of crimes in Penobscot County Superior Court, Todd Thurlow, assistant field officer for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, testified Monday.

When immigration officials tried to put him on a plane in early 2006 so he could be returned home, Pakistani officials refused to issue Iqbal-Khan travel documents. Under questioning from Carter, Thurlow said that it was unusual for officials from Pakistan not to accept a copy of Iqbal-Khan’s passport as proof that he is a citizen of that country. The ICE official said copies of passports have been accepted in other cases.

Information about where Iqbal-Khan’s original passport is was not available Monday.

Thurlow said that efforts to work with Pakistani officials to obtain travel documents in the U.S. and in Pakistan have been unsuccessful so far. Pakistani officials have given no reason for their refusal to accept Iqbal-Khan, who has relatives in Pakistan, he said.

Carter said that it appeared Iqbal-Khan was trying to avoid deportation by not reaching out to Pakistani officials.

Defense attorney David Bate said that was not the situation. Iqbal-Khan was detained in the U.S. for about two years — one year while his deportation case was pending and another after Pakistan refused to issue him travel documents, Bate told Carter.

“His detention was under hellish conditions,” Bate said. “He was was on buses being transferred from detention facility to detention facility. There is no evidence he has said he doesn’t want to go back to Pakistan. He can’t remove himself from here to Pakistan without travel documents.”

Iqbal-Khan was released in December 2006 from the custody of ICE with the condition that he commit no new crimes, according to court documents. He was convicted in Penobscot County in 2010 and 2011 on separate theft charges. Those convictions led to his being charged in federal court in January 2013.

“A great deal of time, effort and expense has gone into efforts to his prosecution, incarceration and efforts to remove him,” Carter said Monday. Those costs will continue if he is incarcerated [after this sentencing]. I want that to end.”

A new sentencing date for Iqbal-Khan has not been set. He remains free on bail. Carter has asked attorneys to file briefs on whether he could shorten any prison sentence he might impose when and if Pakistan were to issue Iqbal-Khan travel documents.

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