By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
But while the doctor’s 15-month stint in this off-the-radar detention facility appears centered around his brother and his own dubious immigration status, his story gets even weirder under the hot lights and the roving eye of the Homeland Security apparatus, particularly during a time when the government’s legitimate concerns result in fear and paranoia in Muslims who have overstayed their welcome.
How much of Imran’s trouble is bad luck and how much is of his own making remains unclear, however. By his own admission, his decision to marry a Muslim convert of Canadian citizenship — who is an aircraft-maintenance engineer — has alienated his own family.
In February, a reporter with the Imperial Valley Press came to interview Imran. The soft-spoken doctor with thin graying hair and almond-shaped eyes told the reporter that his whole life was “flipped over” one night, when he and his other brother were attacked by Muslim extremists in their hometown of Lahore.
On the night of August 13, 2000, five Sunni Muslims on motorcycles surrounded him and his other brother, Ahmad Rizwan, and threatened them at gunpoint, Imran says. He had received anonymous phone calls threatening his life in the past. “Next thing I know, I had a gun to my head,” says the doctor in fluent English tinged with an accent. “Suddenly, I got so scared.”
The doctor says the men pulled him from his car, pushed him against a wall and threatened to kill him. His brother Rizwan, a captain in the Pakistani army, tried to come to his aid and was struck several times by the assailants, he says. Several days later, Imran left to seek asylum in the United States, where his desire was to continue practicing medicine in safety. “I came to the United States because it believes in human rights,” Imran says. “But it’s hard to sleep when you have the fear you are going to be deported and killed right away.”
News reports confirm the basis of the doctor’s fears, that Sunni extremists have targeted Shiite physicians for assassination in the sectarian strife that has plagued Pakistan. According to a CNN.com report last year, more than 70 doctors have been murdered over the past decade in Karachi alone. An official with the Pakistan Medical Association is quoted as saying that specialists in particular have been migrating to other countries to escape the violence.
Prosecutors in Lahore corroborate these reports. In a letter of support for Imran dated December 10, 2002, Deputy District Attorney Ahmed Maqbool Tahir wrote, “I can personally attest to the current conditions in Pakistan that have led [Dr.] Imran to evacuate as well as request that he not be returned. Governing agencies are well aware of the plight of our physicians being targeted [by] these organized terrorist groups. As [physicians] in Pakistan, they have legitimate concerns regarding their safety.”
Imran appears to have left Pakistan without filing a police report or notifying the government or his family of the attack at the hands of the Sunnis, however. He entered the United States in New York, via the United Kingdom, then flew to Los Angeles and took up residence at the Islamic Center of the Inland Empire, a mosque in Rancho Cucamonga, in San Bernardino County.
The doctor did not seek asylum right away. Instead, he obtained a nonresident visitor’s visa, on October 25, 2000, and applied for labor certification and began studying for U.S. medical-licensing exams.
But in fact, Imran had come into the country once before, in February 2000. While residing at the same Islamic center in Rancho Cucamonga, he had come to help his brother and sought assistance from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which had set up a legal-defense fund for his brother. The doctor had posted a message on the Internet titled “A Pakistani Needs Your Help.” It read: “Adnan Chaudhry was falsely implicated in a murder attempt case as a Muslim fanatic who had come to the U.S. with the sole intent of carrying out this crime . . . Being his elder brother I have come here to help him out of this tragic situation.”
The doctor returned home to Pakistan in August 2000 because his visa had expired, he says, and within days the Sunni extremists attacked him, causing him to flee to the United States.
With Adnan Chaudhry’s trial looming in late November of that year, Imran again turned his attention to the defense of his brother, who also received support from members of the local Muslim community. Although the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington were a year away, an atmosphere of distrust and hatred toward Muslims already existed in San Bernardino, witnesses say.
Cal State officials had assigned the frail-looking Chaudhry to an apartment with three other graduate students. Two also were international students: Peter Eganza and Evans Kahuthu, from Kenya. A few weeks had passed when Chaudhry, who, like his brother, is a Shiite Muslim, felt some tension with the Kenyans, who speak Arabic but are Christians.
In addition to the standard roommate squabbles over phone use, the students argued about the bombing attack by Muslim extremists on the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, on August 7, 1998. They also carried on about the eating habits of Chaudhry, who obeyed the Muslim prohibition against pork.