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Ex-USF student who was acquitted of explosives charge still battling for citizenship

TAMPA — The University of South Florida graduate who was acquitted of federal explosives charges in 2009 is now asking a judge to rule whether a delayed decision to deny him citizenship should stand.

Youssef Megahed first applied to become a U.S. citizen in 2007. By December 2011, more than a year after immigration officials interviewed him, a decision hadn't been reached, said his attorney, Charles Kuck.

Megahed filed a federal lawsuit in December to force an answer. A few weeks later, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied his application, Kuck said.

In denying Megahed's application, officials cited his failure to establish himself as a "good moral character," Kuck said.

Because the decision took more than the 120 days allowed by law for immigration officials to make a decision after interviewing an applicant, Megahed is asking a federal judge to overrule the decision, Kuck said. "We are waiting on a federal judge to say whether he will allow the decision to stand or if he will make a different decision," Kuck said. "We believe, ultimately, we will be successful."

Besides the delayed decision, Kuck said, there were problems with the decision process. Megahed was questioned for more than 10 hours, Kuck said, but officials based their decision on only a small part of it.

Megahed was arrested in August 2007 along with USF student Ahmed Mohamed in South Carolina. Mohamed was pulled over for speeding, and authorities found PVC pipes filled with potassium nitrate mixture in his trunk. He said they were sugar rockets.

Megahed was charged with illegal transportation of explosive materials and possession of a destructive device. Neither man was convicted on those charges, but Mohamed received a 15-year sentence after an FBI investigation found he posted an Internet video showing how to make a toy car's remote control into a detonator.

After his April 2009 acquittal, Megahed was rearrested for a deportation hearing and later released. His family gained citizenship in 2009. The lawsuit requesting a decision and now questioning the validity of the Egyptian national's citizenship decision was filed against the U.S. attorney general, secretary of Homeland Security, FBI director, and the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Service's national director and Tampa field office director.

Times researcher Tim Rozgonyi contributed to this report.

Ex-USF student who was acquitted of explosives charge still battling for citizenship 03/17/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 17, 2012 9:51pm]
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