COLUMBUS, Ohio — The government can’t strip a terrorist of his US citizenship, a federal judge ruled this month in a decision siding with a Pakistan-born man serving the last few years of a 20-year sentence for his guilty plea to plotting to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge.

The case involves Iyman Faris, who was sentenced in 2003 for aiding and abetting Al Qaeda by scoping out the bridge as part of a plot to cut through cables that support it. His case was among the highest-profile terrorism cases after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Faris met in Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden, who coordinated the Sept. 11 attacks. He also worked with Sept. 11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Some critics questioned how realistic the plot to blow up the bridge was, given post-Sept. 11 security in New York.


A court filing last year in US District Court in southern Illinois argued that Faris lied on immigration papers before becoming a naturalized citizen in 1999 and that his terrorist affiliations demonstrated a lack of commitment to the Constitution.

‘‘The US government is dedicated to . . . preventing the exploitation of our nation’s immigration system by those who would do harm to our country,’’ said Chad Readler, acting assistant attorney of the Department of Justice’s civil division.

The government filed in Illinois because Faris was imprisoned there then. He has been moved to Terre Haute, Ind.

Faris, 49, was known as Mohammad Rauf before becoming a US citizen, worked as a truck driver in Columbus and was married to an American woman for a while. He is scheduled for release Dec. 23, 2020.

Federal Judge Staci Yanle said there is not enough evidence to prove Faris’s misrepresentations influenced the decision to grant him citizenship.