Man accused of killing Irish soldiers to be deported from US

Mahmoud Bazzi (71) to return to Lebanon after dropping opposition to deportation

Pte Thomas Barrett (left)and Pte Derek Smallhorne  were abducted and shot dead in 1980 in south Lebanon

Pte Thomas Barrett (left)and Pte Derek Smallhorne were abducted and shot dead in 1980 in south Lebanon

Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 20:42

A man accused of killing two Irish soldiers will be deported from the United States to his native Lebanon after he dropped his opposition during an immigration court hearing in downtown Detroit.

Mahmoud Bazzi (71), of Dearborn, Michigan, agreed to leave voluntarily, also giving up his right to appeal the decision. Mr Bazzi said he entered the country fraudulently 21 years ago. He has admitted using someone else’s passport.

US immigration authorities would not say whether he eventually will face charges in Lebanon related to the killings of two Irish soldiers and the wounding of a third there in 1980. The US government had two witnesses to parts of that event on standby to testify in Mr Bazzi’s deportation hearing, but did not call on them.

Mr Bazzi has not been charged in relation to the deaths of privates Derek Smallhorne and Tom Barrett or the wounding of Private John O’Mahony.

Former journalist, Steve Hindy of Brooklyn, New York, and Mr O’Mahony said US authorities contacted them recently and asked them if they would testify against Mr Bazzi. Both said yes, but were not called.

F. Fred Ajluni, Bazzi’s attorney, said the US has no jurisdiction over the 1980 shootings in Lebanon. Mr Ajluni said the deal with the US government calls for Mr Bazzi’s plane to avoid any stops in Europe on the way to Lebanon.

In immigration court, Mr Bazzi appeared on video from the St Clair County Jail, which is about an hour’s drive from Detroit. Wearing an orange jailhouse shirt, he sat at a table with his hands clasped in front of him during the hearing, which lasted about 30 minutes. He thanked Judge David Paruch and said he would take a US flag back to Lebanon with him.

“I love this country,” Mr Bazzi said through a translator. “I learned a lot from my children about this country.”

He has made a living, in part, selling ice cream over the last two decades. His wife, who is a US citizen, will not return to Lebanon with him, his family said.

Homeland security agents arrested him on July 15th at his apartment in suburban Detroit on the immigration violation. He has been held in jail since then and will remain in custody until his deportation.

Mr Bazzi said in interviews with the Detroit Free Press before his arrest that he is innocent of the 1980 shootings, though he confessed to them at the time on television. He has said he was forced to confess by a Lebanese military commander.