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An American dream ends

Hyderabad, Jan. 1: Ayub Ali Khan is back home after his stint in the US. It is a stint he does not want to repeat.

The Hyderabad resident has arrived here after reportedly landing in Delhi on Saturday. The US deported Ayub, alias Gul Mohammed, more than a year after he was detained in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack in New York.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Ayub and fellow Hyderabadi, Azmath Javed, on a train in Pennsylvania after box-cutters were found with Azmath. The FBI linked the tool to the terrorist attack and suspected the duo’s complicity. They were cleared of the charges after interrogation but were later booked for credit-card theft.

After a trial, Ayub and Azmath were sentenced to eight and 14 months’ rigorous imprisonment for the theft. Their jail term, however, was reduced because of their detention since September 2001.

Ayub was deported to India on December 28. He does not know his friend’s whereabouts. “I don’t know when Azmath might come back. We were not together in jail. He was separated from me at the jail in New York,” Ayub said. “I don’t know where he was when I left the US.”

Ayub was speaking to reporters at home after the second metropolitan magistrate here granted him bail on a personal bond of Rs 5,000 yesterday. He has been charged with having two passports and giving wrong information for the Indian passport issued in Hyderabad.

This pales in comparison to this early days in an American detention centre, Ayub said. The Americans, furious after the attack, treated all Asians with contempt, he claimed.

“However, things got better later and I got better facilities (in detention),” he said.

Ayub’s freedom in the US came after FBI agents based in Delhi flew in to Hyderabad in October 2002 for a final check on his background. The US let him off with a warning for the credit-card offence.

He has another worry. His wife is a Pakistani. Earlier, the government had ordered her to leave the country by September 2002, when her visa expired. The visa had been renewed twice.

Ayub hopes she will not be sent back as he is getting ready to begin life anew.

Ayub’s wife — also the mother of his child born in Hyderabad early last year — petitioned the state home minister and the high court for relief till her husband’s return from the US.

Now that Ayub is back, his family fears she will be asked to leave the country by February-end.

Ayub hopes she will not be sent back as he is getting ready to begin life anew. And the US figures nowhere in his plans. “Na baba. I have had enough. I will start a business here,” Ayub said.

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