Ex-Marine starts petition to give Lynch helper citizenship

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 10, 2003

CLEVELAND (AP) - A former Marine has started an online petition to offer American citizenship to the Iraqi who helped rescue Pfc. Jessica Lynch by leading special forces to her bedside.

''I was struck by the humanity of this gentleman's effort,'' said Rick DeMarco, 57, of North Royalton, a Cleveland suburb.

A man identified as Mohammed, 32, an Iraqi lawyer, had gone to Saddam Hospital in Nasiryah to visit his wife, and while there spotted Lynch after noticing special security surrounding her.

Email newsletter signup

Mohammed said he saw a black-clad Fedayeen commander slap the 19-year-old American. He resolved to find help and walked six miles through a war zone known to American military troops.

Mohammed returned to the hospital twice, sketched maps and told the Marines that 41 Fedayeen guarded Lynch.

On April 2, a team of special forces carried out the rescue.

Mohammed, his wife and 6-year-old daughter were relocated to a refugee camp in Umm Qasr.

As a refugee, Mohammed can come to the United States and apply for legal permanent residency within a year, then wait five years before applying for citizenship, Cleveland immigration lawyer David Leopold said.

DeMarco and the thousands who have signed his petition believe Mohammed and his family deserve more.

''This man went above and beyond,'' DeMarco said.

He said he will give his petition to Ohio Sens. Mike DeWine and George Voinovich to encourage Congress to introduce a private bill granting citizenship to Mohammed and his family.

In Lynch's hometown of Palestine, W.Va., an newly established organization called Friends of Mohammad, wants to bring the helper to West Virginia.

That group's founder, James Thibeault, and about 10 others met Wednesday with Imam Jamal Dauodi, spiritual leader of the Islamic Association of West Virginia, to discuss raising money.