Former USF adjunct professor Mazen Al-Najjar was reunited with his family Wednesday after being deported five months ago.
Al-Najjar was sent to Lebanon in August, but on Sept. 18, the country just to the north of Israel deported him, as well. Some Arabic news outlets reported that he was sent to Iran, though his family would not confirm his location due to safety reasons.
A news release Wednesday said Al-Najjar is now in a U.S.-friendly country, which also will remain anonymous until he establishes permanent residency.
Prior to Wednesday’s announcement, news surrounding Al-Najjar has been minimal and has focused more on his brother-in-law, controversial USF professor Sami Al-Arian.
It was with Al-Najjar that Al-Arian founded World and Islam Studies Enterprise at USF in the early ’90s. When one of WISE’s members emerged as leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in 1995, the FBI raided its headquarters, and both Al-Arian and Al-Najjar became the focus of a federal investigation.
Despite a federal judge’s ruling that cleared WISE of any wrongdoing, Al-Najjar has spent nearly five years in jail on secret evidence the government said tied him to terrorism.
Al-Arian is serving his second paid suspension in four years, the most recent stemming from death threats he received after appearing on a nationally televised talk show.
Al-Arian said Wednesday night that Al-Najjar and his wife, Feda, most likely have 6-month visas.
Al-Najjar and his wife are both stateless Palestinians. His three children are all U.S. citizens and therefore do not need visas, he said.
While it is heartbreaking to Al-Arian now that it appears a good portion of his family could be exiled from the United States permanently, he knows it could be their only chance of resuming a normal lifestyle.
“I’m hoping that he’s started a new chapter in his life without fear or instability, not belonging and not knowing (what’s going to happen next),” Al-Arian said.
Al-Arian said right now Al-Najjar is focusing on finding an apartment for his family and finding an English-speaking school for his children. After that, he said, Al-Najjar will probably try to find a job.