Hearing reset for suspect in UN soldier deaths

July 31, 2014 - 10:04 AM

DETROIT (AP) — A federal immigration court judge delayed a hearing Thursday for a Detroit-area man suspected by the Irish government in the deaths of two United Nations peacekeeping soldiers in Lebanon in 1980.

Mahmoud Bazzi's initial immigration court appearance was rescheduled for Aug. 11 to give him time to hire a lawyer.

The native of Lebanon was arrested two weeks ago at his Dearborn home. He's accused of immigration violations linked to his arrival in the U.S. in the early 1990s.

Bazzi spoke in Arabic during his appearance via videoconferencing from the St. Clair County Jail, where he is being held by Homeland Security officials.

"If you do not wish to keep me here, send me to my country, Lebanon," Bazzi told Judge David Paruch through an interpreter. Bazzi, 71, later added that he "would like to be released."

Bazzi isn't charged with killing Irish soldiers Derek Smallhorne and Thomas Barrett. He insists he wasn't involved, but the Irish government for years publicly expressed suspicions about Bazzi.

Eamon Saunders, a counsellor of Justice and Home Affairs with the Ireland Embassy in Washington, D.C., was in the courtroom Thursday.

"It's something we're interested in, so we will be paying attention to it," Saunders said after the hearing.

Two women who identified themselves as relatives of Bazzi declined to comment Thursday on the case.