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US deports detainee to India weeks after family complained of coronavirus exposure

Ibrahim Mohammad was scheduled to be deported in February, but India's decision to close its borders meant he was kept in ICE processing centre until Tuesday
Ibrahim Mohammad was kept for three months at ICE processing centre where several detainees reportedly fell ill (MEE/Courtesy of Ibrahim Mohammad's family)

US immigration authorities finally deported a Muslim detainee to India, months after he was scheduled to be released, his family said. 

Ibrahim Mohammad flew into the Indian city of Amritsar on Tuesday after languishing since February in an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) processing centre in Colorado, where he completed a two-year sentence in federal prison, his wife Umaima Jafri told Middle East Eye.

Upon arrival, he was questioned by Indian authorities for three hours and then released, Jafri said.

According to the family, Mohammad is currently quarantined in Amritsar, about 460km north of the capital New Delhi, before he can travel to his family's home in Hyderabad.

The 39-year-old was arrested in 2015 after being charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, specifically Anwar al-Awlaki, a preacher who later came out in support of al-Qaeda and was subsequently killed by a US drone strike in Yemen in 2011.

After waiting two years for trial, the government offered the structural engineer a plea deal - despite his repeated protests and denials of any wrongdoing.

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In exchange for a guilty plea, Mohammad was told he would serve a significantly reduced sentence of 51 months and then be deported.

He was transferred to an ICE processing centre in February where social distancing and other precautionary measures were reportedly impossible to follow.

According to the family, Mohammad, at one point, began showing symptoms of Covid-19, including a sore throat and body aches.

"Ibrahim is finally in the last leg of this long journey," Jafri said in an email.

"May he walk into his mother's arms as a free man and celebrate the most beautiful Eid with his mother," she said.

The deportation comes as India begins to ease lockdown restrictions put in place in March amid the novel coronavirus.

The coronavirus has swept through ICE detention centres, with 1,163 confirmed cases out of the 2,328 people tested for the virus.

Unsanitary living conditions and close quarters make contracting the illness more possible for detainees, prompting rights groups to call on ICE to release all its detainees.

"Immigration detention should not be a death sentence," Andrea Flores, a deputy director at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said in a statement in April.