U.S. judge deports Qatar military officer accused of enslaving servants

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - A U.S. judge ordered the immediate deportation on Tuesday of a Qatar military officer and his wife after they were accused of holding two female servants in slave-like conditions in their upscale San Antonio home.

Hassan al-Homoud, 46, who received military training at San Antonio’s Camp Bullis, and his wife, Zainab al-Hosani, a citizen of the United Arab Emirates, pleaded guilty to federal charges in December.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia said he had hoped to hand down a harsher sentence than deportation in the case, since engaging in forced labor is a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

But a plea agreement was offered to the couple because the servants - one from Bangladesh and the other from Indonesia - refused to testify against them.

Homoud pleaded guilty in December to visa fraud while his wife pleaded guilty to knowing that a felony was taking place and failing to report it. The couple also agreed to pay $60,000 restitution to each of their victims.

The couple held the servants in “virtual slavery,” in primitive conditions, withholding their wages, confiscating their cell phones and passports, and giving them barely enough food to survive, prosecutors said.

Garcia said the couple would be immediately removed from the country and never allowed back.

The servants told officials they had never been paid and a federal affidavit said they were forced to live in a “run-down apartment with no furnishings, no linens, utensils, clothing, television, reading material or even toilet paper.”

The U.S. Attorney’s office said Hosani had “threatened the workers with arrest and incarceration in Qatar if they failed to perform their work obligations.”

In a statement read in court, Homoud said he took full responsibility for his actions. “My conduct has brought shame upon myself, my lovely wife, upon my family and upon my country,” he said.

Reporting by Jim Forsyth; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Tom Brown