Said Jaziri, a controversial Islamic cleric who had been deported to Tunisia from Canada, was caught east of San Diego after he was allegedly smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
Jaziri was a Montreal imam who led Canadian protests against against a Danish cartoonist who made light of the prophet Mohammad in 2006. That cartoonist received many death threats.
Border Patrol agents allege they found the 43-year-old in the trunk of a suspected smuggler's BMW near the border east of San Diego.
The Times reported he was being held as a material witness against the man charged with smuggling, Kenneth Robert Lawler.
Authorities said Jaziri paid Tijuana smugglers $5,000 to come across.
The cleric's supporters say he has been wrongly targeted for his fundamentalist views. It's not clear why he wanted to get to the U.S. so bad (he was reported to have flown from African to Europe to Central America before taking a bus to Tijuana).
The Times reports that he told smugglers to get him to a “safe place anywhere in the U.S.”
Jaziri has said he would face torture if sent back to Tunisia.