Los Angeles Times: Four Iranian brothers jailed as threats to national security were freed from an immigration detention facility Wednesday after more than three years in custody. The sudden release of the Mirmehdis Mohammed, 34, Mohsen, 37, Mojtaba, 41, and Mostafa, 45 was announced at 6:15 p.m. and came in time for the beginning of the Persian new year early Sunday. Los Angeles Times
Deportation is still a possibility for the men, who have been cleared of terrorist ties.
By H.G. Reza, Times Staff Writer
Four Iranian brothers jailed as threats to national security were freed from an immigration detention facility Wednesday after more than three years in custody.
The sudden release of the Mirmehdis Mohammed, 34, Mohsen, 37, Mojtaba, 41, and Mostafa, 45 was announced at 6:15 p.m. and came in time for the beginning of the Persian new year early Sunday. The brothers immediately headed home to the San Fernando Valley.
Their release wasn’t entirely unexpected. Attorneys and immigration officials had been negotiating the terms for about a month.
The four were scheduled to be freed Feb. 20 from an immigration jail at Terminal Island, but they rejected the government’s initial conditions governing their freedom.
The government later amended those terms. The brothers were released even though they refused to sign the new documents, an immigration spokeswoman said.
“My clients are very happy. It’s been a long haul, but they intend to get on with the rest of their lives,” said attorney Marc Van Der Hout. “Not many clients would be willing to take a principled stand and spend an extra month in custody because they found the conditions of release unfair.”
He said the Mirmehdis hoped to continue working as real estate agents.
Government officials had accused them of being supporters of the Iranian opposition group Moujahedeen Khalq, or MEK, which is on the U.S. list of foreign terrorist groups. The brothers said they were not MEK members and denied knowing anyone who was.
An immigration appeals board ruled that the brothers had no ties to terrorism but upheld their deportations.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice said the Mirmehdis were freed despite refusing to sign the amended release terms.
“They have declined to sign the conditions of release but agreed to leave the facility. But we still expect them to abide by these conditions,” she said.
Those conditions include a prohibition against traveling outside Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange counties without permission and reporting to immigration officials in person twice a month and once a week by telephone.
Earlier conditions had included a prohibition on traveling more than 35 miles from their homes.
Van Der Hout said the new document’s terms were “fairly standard restrictions.”
He said the Mirmehdis were thrilled by their freedom. But their legal problems persist.
Federal officials are following through with plans to deport them. Immigration judges ordered their deportations in 1999 for lying on political asylum applications, but the brothers were freed on bond while they fought to remain in the country. Court documents show they were coached to lie by two FBI informants.
After a lengthy appellate process, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in October that Mohsen and Mohammed Mirmehdi could stay in the U.S. and pursue an appeal they filed when the government denied their asylum applications.
But the court ruled that Mojtaba and Mostafa Mirmehdi failed to appeal the government’s refusal to grant them asylum and could be deported if the government found a third country to accept them.
Immigration judges have ruled that none of the brothers can be deported to Iran because they will be tortured there.
They were arrested again Oct. 2, 2001, when Department of Homeland Security officials accused them of having ties to terrorism.
They had been in custody ever since.