Imam Has a Visa, Attorney Says

Times Staff Writer

The lawyer for an Orange County imam who was arrested last week on immigration charges dismissed government claims that her client is in the country illegally.

Wagdy Mohamed Ghoneim was taken into custody at his Anaheim home Thursday morning, said Lori Haley, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Haley declined to provide details of the charges against Ghoneim other than to say he is accused of violating immigration regulations. “He is not in this country lawfully,” she said.

Ban Al-Wardi, Ghoneim’s lawyer, refuted those claims Saturday, saying Ghoneim was in the country on a valid visa. “He is a very important figure in the community,” Al-Wardi said. “He is here legally.” She declined to provide other details about her client.

Ghoneim, an Egyptian, serves as an imam at the Islamic Institute of Orange County in Anaheim, according to Muzammil Siddiqi, head of the Islamic Society in Garden Grove. Siddiqi said Ghoneim has taught at the mosque for the “past several years” and described him as an intelligent man who spoke mostly in Arabic.


Haley said she expected an immigration hearing for Ghoneim would be scheduled this week. He is being held at a federal detention facility on Terminal Island in San Pedro, she said.