US court adjourns Bazzi immigration hearing

Thursday 31 July 2014 19.17
Mahmoud Bazzi will continue to be held in detention in Michigan and will appear before the courts again on 11 August
Mahmoud Bazzi will continue to be held in detention in Michigan and will appear before the courts again on 11 August

The man suspected of murdering two Irish peacekeepers in the Lebanon more than 30 years ago has told a US immigration judge to send him back to the Lebanon if he cannot stay in the US.

Mahmoud Bazzi appeared via videolink before an immigration court in Detroit today.

He is being held at the St Clair County Jail in Michigan, where he has been since his arrest on "administrative immigration violations" at his Detroit home two weeks ago.

Mr Bazzi was due to have his first detention hearing relating to his potential removal from the United States at the Detroit Federal Immigration Court today.

However, due to a mix-up, his lawyer did not appear in court in time for the case and the judge adjourned the hearing until next month.

Through an Arabic interpreter Judge David Paruch explained to Mr Bazzi that the purpose of the hearing was to decide whether the Lebanese native would have to leave the United States.

In response, Mr Bazzi, 71, replied in Arabic "if you do not wish to keep me here then send me back to my country, to Lebanon".

The judge told Mr Bazzi that he was entitled to have legal representation but that there was no lawyer present in court.

Mr Bazzi said he had retained 85-year-old K Fred Ajluni to represent him and that his family had been consulting him, and that he had spoken to him several times.

Mr Bazzi's wife and daughter were in the courtroom.

Judge Paruch adjourned the case to allow Mr Ajluni time to file papers with the court to formally represent Mr Bazzi in the case.

Mr Bazzi told the judge that he would like to be released, and gesticulated repeatedly when explaining that he had a lawyer and his lawyer should be there.

Nevertheless Judge Paruch said the next available date in the court's calendar was Monday 11 August.

Mr Ajluni arrived at the courtroom a short time after proceedings had been adjourned but the court was unable to reschedule the hearing for later today.

In April 1980, two members of the Irish Defence Forces on a UN peacekeeping mission were part of a UN convoy taken captive in southern Lebanon by members of the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army.

Privates Thomas Barrett from Cork and Derek Smallhorne from Dublin were later found shot dead nearby, with their bodies showing signs of torture.

A third Irish soldier, John O'Mahony from Killarney, Co Kerry said he was shot and wounded by Mr Bazzi before his two comrades had been driven away.

Mr Bazzi is suspected of being responsible for the murders.

A representative from the Irish Embassy in Washington travelled to Detroit for the hearing today. 

In a statement, the Department of Defence said the diplomat was there as an observer for the Government to monitor proceedings, but that the immigration case was a matter for the US authorities.

Mr Bazzi will continue to be held in detention in Michigan until his case is back before the courts.