Corning deportee held in Pakistan?

Folks from Corning aren’t known for getting mixed up in cases of international intrigue. That’s why it caused a stir when a Corning business owner was jailed by the federal government last June amid revelations that he once knew a convicted terrorist. Now the man, who was deported to his native Pakistan last August, is claiming through his wife that he is being held captive by the Pakistani government.

Nasir Ali Mubarak, 34, was never officially accused of anything more than overstaying his visa, an issue he had been working with the INS to resolve for more than a year. Mubarak’s wife, long-time Corning resident Stephanie Mubarak, has stood by her husband through the whole ordeal, visiting him in jail, attending his court hearings and defending his reputation through the media.

“I thought this was going to be over,” Stephanie said recently. “Now we’re even further apart. At least when he was [in jail] here I could talk to him every night and see him on the weekends.”

Stephanie had planned to follow her husband into exile, giving up her life here for an unsure existence in the United Arab Emirates, where Mr. Mubarak lived prior to entering the United States in 1990. But the only contact Stephanie has had with her husband since the day he was deported are a few short and frantic cell-phone calls, in which Mr. Mubarak has said he is being held by the Pakistani federal police, allegedly at the request of the FBI.

The FBI denies that it has asked anybody to hold Mubarak, as does the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The Pakistani embassy in Washington, D.C., denies that he is being held. Mubarak’s lawyers say they are unable to locate him and have asked for help from human-rights group Amnesty International.

Stephanie said her husband has told her he is being shuttled back and forth between a prison and what he thinks is a military hospital. He travels with a hood over his face so he cannot give a more precise location, but because the distances he travels are short, he believes he is still in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, where he landed Aug. 30.

The couple has been able to maintain some contact through a hospital employee’s cell phone, which Mubarak apparently has limited access to. He has told his wife that he is not being mistreated but that he is often interrogated about his relationship with Abdul Hakim Murad, the man he entered the United States with in 1990, Stephanie said.

Mubarak’s association with Murad has been the subject of intense scrutiny by the FBI. Mubarak never denied knowing Murad, who was arrested in the Philippines and convicted in the United States on charges of conspiring to blow up American passenger airplanes. Mubarak knew Murad for only a few months and has said he was unaware that Murad had any ties to terrorism.

In responding to questions about Mubarak’s alleged detention, Imran Ali, an official at the Pakistani embassy in Washington, D.C., said he was at a loss to explain what had happened to Mubarak.

“It would be very odd for the government of the U.S. to find someone suspicious and then hand him over to the Pakistani government. Usually it works in the opposite direction,” he said.

Ali said Mubarak may have been mistakenly picked up by Pakistani authorities and then lost or been misidentified. Most deportees are questioned and then immediately released, he said.