U.S. border authorities have arrested a controversial Muslim cleric who was deported from Canada to Tunisia three years ago and was caught earlier this month trying to sneak into California in the trunk of a BMW, according to court documents.
Said Jaziri, the former imam of a Muslim congregation in Montreal, was hidden in a car driven by a San Diego-area man who was pulled over by U.S. Border Patrol agents near an Indian casino east of San Diego on Jan. 11. Jaziri had allegedly paid a Tijuana-based smuggling group $5,000 to get him across the border near Tecate, saying he wanted to be taken to a “safe place anywhere in the U.S.”
The arrest marks the unexpected resurfacing of the 43-year-old cleric, whose protracted legal battle to avoid deportation drew headlines in Canada. A Tunisian immigrant, Jaziri was deported for failing to disclose a criminal conviction in France while applying for refugee status in the mid-1990s.
But Jaziri’s supporters said he was targeted for his fundamentalist views: He backed Sharia law for Canadian Muslims and led protests over the publication of the Prophet Mohammed cartoons in a Danish newspaper in 2006.