A history of derisive religious and political views and an international criminal past mark the Tunisian Muslim Cleric who snuck into the country from Mexico in early January.
The man, Said Jaziri, was found hiding in the trunk of a BMW by Border Patrol agents who were tipped off by state firefighters. The firefighters had watched Jaziri and another man, a Mexican national, climb into the truck just off of Tierra del Sol Road, near the intersection of Moon Valley Road. The men had climbed a border wall and hiked overnight to reach the pick-up site on Jan. 11.
Jaziri is being held at the San Luis Detention Center in Yuma as a material witness in the case against the driver, Kenneth Robert Lawler. Lawler, a citizen, is charged with immigrant smuggling.
The following chronology is based on published reports in Canada and Tunisia.
According to news accounts Jaziri was deported from Canada in 2007 and from France sometime in the 1990s. At the time of his removal from Canada his wife, Nancy-Ann Adams, was one month from giving birth to their first child.
The expulsion occurred after officials discovered Jaziri had lied on his refugee application about having served jail time in France previously. In 1995 Jaziri served eight months in a French jail after being part of a fundamentalist group attack on a less-devout person who they faulted for closing down a prayer room.
Before his deportation from Canada Jaziri, who led the largest North African mosque in Montreal, claimed he would be in danger if returned to Tunisia, where he opposed the regime at the time. His supporters believed his deportation was politically motivated. The Imam had led demonstrations against Danish cartoons that poked fun at Islam supported the creation of Islamic law tribunals in Canada and rebuked homosexuality as a disease. He also garnered attention for saying the Canadian government should build a $20 million mosque for the city's Muslims.
In 2005 when Jaziri first learned his refugee status had been revoked he hid in his mosque for weeks. Two years later he was deported after exhausting all legal challenges. The Canadian government said Jaziri was exaggerating about the dangers he would face in Tunisia.
Conflicting reports about the Imam exist and include a book written by Fabrice de Pierrebourg on Montreal Muslims. in the tome he quotes Jaziri's attorney saying Jaziri was willing to go back to Tunisia. A Canadian newspaper reported Jaziri said he was tortured in Tunisia after he was ousted from France, however he never mentioned this to Canadian authorities.
In Tunisian media reports about his arrival in Tunisia in 2007 Jaziri blamed Canada for mistreatment and said he was tied up for the duration of the 13-hour flight. Jaziri denounced the treatment he received and compared it to "psychological and physical torture." He also claimed Tunisia was superior to Canada in respect to reuniting with family.
Various bloggers in Canada now speculate Jaziri's arrival in the U.S. is part of a journey back to Canada. It's unclear, however, where Jaziri's journey was to end before he was apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol. The driver was to take him and the other man to a parking lot in Mission Viejo, just north of San Diego County, for a hand-off, according to court documents.
Sources: International news sources in Canada and Tunisia
Staff Writer Nathan Max contributed to this report