Federal prosecutors have urged a judge to halt a Libyan national's bid for US citizenship while the FBI investigates whether he lied to agents about his involvement with an Islamic charity and trips to Afghanistan.
US District Judge Rya W. Zobel has given the lawyer for Quincy businessman Emadeddin Muntasser until noon today to respond to the government's request before deciding whether to go forward with a naturalization hearing scheduled for tomorrow.
Muntasser, who owns Logan Furniture Company and has been a permanent US resident since 1992, filed a federal lawsuit in June against the Department of Homeland Security, alleging it has let his citizenship application languish since it was filed in October 2002.
The government responded by telling the court that Muntasser is under investigation for failing to disclose on his initial application that he traveled to Afghanistan in the mid-1990s, and was a member of CARE International from 1993 to 1996 and the Alkifah Refugee Center from 1991 to 1993.
Muntasser did not reveal his involvement in the two organizations until the day before his Nov. 6, 2003, interview with Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to court documents.
Some of the members of the Alkifah Refugee Center, a now-defunct Muslim group in Brooklyn, N.Y., were convicted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York.
When interviewed under oath on April 6, 2004, Muntasser said he traveled to Afghanistan in the mid-1990s to perform humanitarian work on behalf of CARE International of Boston-Brighton, a charity of which he was once president, according to government filings.
Muntasser also said he had traveled outside the United States for eight to nine months in 2003 and more than five months in 2002, according to the government. He said his wife and children were in Tripoli.
The US attorney's office offered to provide additional information about its criminal investigation of Muntasser to the judge, but wrote that the information was ''so sensitive" that it couldn't be revealed to Muntasser or his lawyer without jeopardizing the integrity of the investigation.
US Attorney Michael Sullivan's office argued that the investigation may reveal information that would bar Muntasser from becoming a US citizen, and urged Zobel to halt naturalization proceedings.
Samantha Martin, a spokeswoman for Sullivan, declined to comment on the case.
Muntasser couldn't be reached for comment last night.
But, his Boston-based lawyer, Jeremiah Friedman, wrote in court documents that the government's investigation lacked substance and that Muntasser had no intention of tricking or deceiving authorities during his interviews or application process.
In court filings, he described Muntasser as a 1986 honors graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute whose father was accused of being an ''American Sympathizer" and had his property seized during the regime of Moammar Khadafy in Libya. He also said that Muntasser's travels to Afghanistan while he was president of CARE International took place prior to 1996 to investigate the refugee crisis caused by the civil war, well before the country was taken over by the Taliban.
Shelley Murphy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.