Pakistani arrested in Havre
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A Pakistani citizen is in the Hill County Detention Center awaiting a deportation hearing.
Zafar Iqbal was arrested at the Amtrak depot in Havre last Tuesday and booked into jail on a charge of being an illegal alien, the U.S. Border Patrol said. Bond was set at $25,000.
Iqbal was traveling with his wife, Cindy Bennett, on Amtrak when Border Patrol agents asked Iqbal for identification. He was arrested when it was determined that his visa had expired, said Jim Clardy, assistant chief for the Border Patrol in Havre.
Bennett and Iqbal were married Oct. 23 in Hickory, N.C. The couple was traveling to Portland, Ore., where Bennett lives. She said the couple was aware that Iqbal's visa had expired, and was planning to renew it when they arrived in Portland.
Iqbal has a valid passport, Clardy said.
He said today that no definite course of action has been determined.
"The case is still evolving," he said. "No decision has been made directly. The investigation is still ongoing. The process takes some time."
Bennett said Iqbal worked for the U.S. consulate in Pakistan for 11 years.
The Pakistani embassy in Washington, D.C., has been notified of his arrest. Officials there were unavailable to comment on the case.
Clardy said the Border Patrol is conducting a background investigation on Iqbal.
"We are currently conducting an investigation as to his entry into the United States," Clardy said. He added that Iqbal will attend a deportation hearing pending the investigation.
Clardy said Iqbal's recent marriage to Bennett may be a consideration at the hearing.
"It may be a mitigating factor," he said. "But he derives no immediate status from the marriage."
Bennett said she is frustrated by the arrest.
"This man is not a terrorist," she said. "He is the furthest thing from a terrorist there is. He hates what terrorists have done to his people and his religion."
Bennett was interviewed by Border Patrol agents on Thursday morning.
"I kind of got the impression that they were starting to figure out this guy is not a terrorist. He's just bad at paperwork," she said.