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Judge calls deportation action against former USF student 'a very close case'

MIAMI — Youssef Megahed will learn Friday whether the government has presented enough evidence for an immigration judge to consider deporting him because he has terrorist ties.

"It's a very close case," Immigration Judge Kenneth S. Hurewitz said Thursday.

Hurewitz planned to spend the evening reviewing documents and testimony presented at a deportation hearing in Miami-Dade County this week. His focus: government evidence that Megahed provided material support to terrorists, a charge that got former co-defendant Ahmed Mohamed a 15-year prison sentence.

The judge plans to rule this morning on a defense motion to terminate the deportation proceedings against Megahed, a former University of South Florida student.

Even if Hurewitz dismisses the charges, it's unlikely Megahed would immediately gain freedom. Homeland Security Department attorneys have indicated they will appeal an unfavorable ruling. No matter what Hurewitz decides Friday, a final ruling on deportation could still be weeks away.

"I started out my case by calling the government's evidence garbage," said Charles Kuck, Megahed's defense attorney. "You know what we've heard for the last four days? Garbage."

If Hurewitz decides the deportation proceedings should move forward, Kuck said he may or may not present any witnesses.

"If I heard your testimony, it may sway me in either way," the judge told Kuck.

Homeland Security Department attorneys have spent the week trying to prove that Megahed has or is likely to engage in terrorist activity.

Saying he planned to focus solely on the accusation that Megahed gave material support to terrorists, the judge said the government hadn't proved its case and that Megahed had "clearly not" committed those offenses.

But Megahed was associated with a known terrorist, the judge noted, referring to Mohamed.

Homeland Security presented evidence about Mohamed's activities and linked him to Megahed throughout the week, despite Kuck's continued objections.

Government attorney Loren Coy said Megahed had to have known that Mohamed posted a YouTube video showing how to turn a child's toy into a remote-control detonator. Mohamed said he intended the video to be used by enemies of the United States.

Coy also pointed to the PVC pipes filled with a potassium nitrate mixture found in the trunk when Megahed and Mohamed were stopped for speeding in Goose Creek, S.C., on Aug. 4, 2007. Coy said the mixture was the same propellant used in Qassam rockets launched against Israel and U.S. forces.

Kevin Graham can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or kgraham@sptimes.com.

Judge calls deportation action against former USF student 'a very close case' 08/20/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 20, 2009 11:24pm]
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