Egyptian man convicted of murder in his home country will not be deported.

January 16, 2008 3:42:41 PM PST
An Egyptian convicted of murder in absentia in his home country was released from federal custody after a judge ruled he had legitimate reasons to fear being tortured if deported. Sameh S. Khouzam, 38, called his release after seven months "the best thing in the world. I'm blessed with all the love and support of the good people around me."

Despite his release Tuesday from York County Prison, Khouzam must still wear a monitoring device on his ankle. A spokesman for the Justice Department said officials had not decided whether to appeal his release.

Khouzam has argued he will be tortured for his religious beliefs as a Coptic Christian if he is deported to Egypt, which is predominantly Muslim. He also denies the allegations that he killed a woman and then fled to the United States a decade ago.

When he landed in the U.S. in 1998, he was immediately detained based on the criminal allegations forwarded from Egypt. After U.S. court rulings in his favor, he was released in 2006.

But he was taken into custody again in May after being advised that the State Department had secured "diplomatic assurances" from Egyptian officials that he would not be tortured.

A federal judge ruled last week that Khouzam should not be deported based on those assurances.

U.S. District Judge Thomas I. Vanaskie also said little evidence has been produced to support Khouzam's conviction for the murder of Zaki Mohammed Youssef.

About 20 people celebrated Khouzam's release Tuesday at his mother's apartment in York, including those who worked with him at a Lancaster real estate company, fellow churchgoers and volunteers who have worked on his behalf.