Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|12/11/00 at 22:46:30|
|In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful|
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SECOND MUSLIM SECRET EVIDENCE DETAINEE TO BE FREED
Mazen Al-Najjar detained without charge for more than three years
(WASHINGTON, DC - 12/11/2000) - The Board of Immigration Appeal today ruled
that a Muslim detainee in Florida may be released Tuesday morning after
being held without charge for more than three years based on secret
evidence that was not revealed to him or to his attorneys.
Dr. Mazen Al-Najjar, a professor at the University of South Florida, was
ordered released on bond last week, but the government requested and
received a stay of the judge's order. He had been detained because of
secret allegations that he supported terrorism. Only a last-minute
intervention by Attorney General Janet Reno could block Al-Najjar's
This is the second time in just the past week that a Muslim held on secret
evidence has been released from detention. After being held for four years
in Virginia, Algerian politician Anwar Haddam, was freed last Thursday on a
"We thank the hundreds of concerned Muslims who, along with people of other
faiths, contacted Attorney General Reno to ask that she no longer block the
release of Dr. Al-Najjar. The joy of this day is tempered by the knowledge
that the unconstitutional use of secret evidence stole more than three
years of a man's life," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on
American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based Islamic advocacy
group. Hooper added that secret evidence is used almost exclusively against
Muslims and Arabs.
The Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace, a Florida group that worked
to obtain Al-Najjar's release, today thanked Reps. David Bonior (D-MI) and
Tom Campbell (R-CA) for their efforts in challenging the use of secret
evidence. A coalition news release called Bonior the "conscience of
America" and "an American icon for courage."
Legislation banning most uses of secret evidence in immigration cases
passed through the House Judiciary Committee this year, but was not offered
for a vote in the full House. The Secret Evidence Repeal Act (H.R. 2121),
sponsored by Reps. Bonior and Campbell, is expected to be re-introduced in
the next session.
There are an estimated six million Muslims in America and some 1.2 billion
worldwide. Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in this country
and around the world.
- END -
CONTACT: CAIR - Ibrahim Hooper at 202-488-8787
Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace, 813-679-8282
|Re: Al-Najjar's release and Reno Blocks it|
|12/12/00 at 11:51:33|
|Reno Blocks Palestinian's Release |
Updated 10:29 AM ET December 12, 2000
Palestinian Academic Mazen Al-Najjar, Shown in This Undated... (AP)
By PAT LEISNER, Associated Press Writer
BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) - Attorney General Janet Reno on Tuesday blocked the release of a Palestinian man jailed for three years without charges, a congressman who has criticized U.S. handling of the case said.
Just moments before Mazen Al-Najjar was to be released, attorneys received a phone call telling them of Reno's action, said Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich., who has been advocating the man's release.
The government has maintained that Al-Najjar, 43, had links to Mideast terrorists and was a threat to national security.
Al-Najjar denied the allegations. Not even his lawyers have ever seen the evidence against him.
"I'm stunned and disappointed," Bonior said. "We have to be strong and keep fighting and it will happen."
Officials with the Justice Department in Washington did not immediately return calls seeking comment Tuesday.
Last week, U.S. Immigration Judge R. Kevin McHugh ordered Al-Najjar's release on $8,000 bond, saying the government failed to give him enough information to defend himself. McHugh had viewed the classified evidence in chambers. The Board of Immigration Appeal then held up the release, but the board lifted its own order Monday.
Outside the Manatee County Detention Center 45 miles south of Tampa, Al-Najjar's wife and children, other family members, his attorney Martin Schwartz and Bonior had gathered Tuesday to await the release.
The case has been championed by lawyers, civil rights groups and members of Congress who say Al-Najjar's detention without charges - based on evidence to which he has no access - is unconstitutional.
Bonior last week called for Reno's resignation because of Al-Najjar's case and that of Anwar Haddam, who has been held on secret evidence for four years in Fredericksburg, Va.
They are among about 20 immigrants, mostly Arabs living in America, held in U.S. jails without criminal charges on the basis of classified evidence.
Al-Najjar, who was raised in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, has been in the United States since 1981. His student visa expired years ago and the INS contends he has been living illegally in this country for years. He is married and has three American-born daughters.
He and his brother-in-law were associated with the World and Islam Studies Enterprise, an academic think tank affiliated with the University of South Florida, and the Islamic Committee for Palestine, a group that said its mission was fostering better understanding of Muslim issues.
The U.S. Government maintained the Florida organizations fronted for the Islamic Jihad, which has claimed responsibility for terrorist bombings in the Middle East.
Al-Najjar has denied any ties to terrorists.
|Re: Al-Najjar's release|
|12/14/00 at 02:25:20|
Published Wednesday, December 13, 2000, in the Miami Herald
Reno halts release of Muslim cleric held in Tampa
BY MARTIN MERZER
His family brought him street clothes, and 30 supporters gathered at the detention center to greet him, but Mazen Al-Najjar -- held for 3 1/2 years on secret evidence -- remained in jail Tuesday after U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno blocked his release until at least Friday.
``They love torturing people,'' Sami Al-Arian said after his brother-in-law came closer then ever to freedom but failed to achieve it. ``It's surreal.''
The government claims that Al-Najjar, 43, a Muslim cleric from Tampa, supports terrorism. He denies it, a lengthy grand jury investigation ended without charges and an immigration judge ordered him released last week.
On Monday, an immigration appeals board endorsed Al-Najjar's release on $8,000 bond from the Downtown Detention Center in Bradenton.
But, just after his family delivered shoes, slacks and a shirt to him Tuesday morning and with his wife and three daughters standing outside to greet him, Reno intervened.
She ordered Al-Najjar held until 5 p.m. Friday ``in order to maintain the status quo while I personally review the appropriateness of allowing the respondent's immediate release.''
Public access to the detention center ends for the weekend at 4 p.m. Friday. By setting the deadline at 5 p.m., Reno effectively ordered Al-Najjar held until Monday.
``I'm always expecting the worst from the INS,'' Al-Najjar said in a comment relayed by attorney Martin Schwartz.
Reno's action left Al-Najjar's supporters accusing the government of vindictive behavior.
``Everyone is disappointed and very upset,'' Nahla Al-Arian, his sister, said as she stood outside the detention center.
David Cole, Al-Najjar's lead attorney, said Reno has taken similar steps in the past when judges have ordered the release of Muslims held on secret evidence as alleged terrorists. In those cases, she has delayed releases briefly but has not permanently prevented them.
Cole said he respected Reno's right to intervene in this case, but disagreed with her action. Everyone connected with the immigration system works for Reno.
``It's an extraordinary step because it allows the INS prosecutors in the case, having lost before the immigration judges, to go to their boss to reverse the judges,'' Cole said.
INS spokesman Maria Cardona said Reno ``just wants time to review the matter.''
A Palestinian teacher and religious leader who overstayed his visa, Al-Najjar is accused of supporting the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
No evidence of that was presented during public hearings, and an immigration judge in Bradenton ruled last week that federal prosecutors failed to provide a legally adequate summary of the secret evidence, as ordered by U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard of Miami.
Motions requesting Al-Najjar's immediate release are pending in Lenard's court.
|Re: Al-Najjar's release|
|12/15/00 at 23:07:29|
alhamdulilah...read the following:
Palestinian jailed on secret evidence released
BRADENTON, Fla. -- (AP) -- A Palestinian locked up for three years on secret government evidence without ever being charged with a crime walked out of jail a free man Friday, into the open arms of his family, who wept with tears of joy.
``It's a great day for justice and a sad day for arrogance and oppression,'' Mazen Al-Najjar told a crowd outside the Manatee County Detention Center.
``God is great,'' hollered a supporter in Arabic as the glass door to the immigration service detention facility opened and the 43-year-old academic was released.
``It's a historic day after 1,307 days in jail,'' said Sami Al-Arian, Al-Najjar's brother in-law.
Attorney General Janet Reno earlier Friday lifted a stay that had kept Al-Najjar behind bars. In an accompanying statement, Reno said that Justice Department officials ``anticipate he could be deported from the United States soon.''
The government has maintained that Al-Najjar had links to Mideast terrorists and was a threat to national security. Al-Najjar denied the allegations. Not even his lawyers have seen the evidence against him.
He was greeted outside the jail by his family, friends and about two dozen supporters from the Arabic community.
His wife, Fedaa, grabbed him around the neck, hugging and kissing him in a long embrace. He then picked up and hugged his three young American-born daughters, Yara, 12, Sarah, 10 and Safa, 5.
Tears of joy rolled down the face of his sister Nahla Al-Arian.
Al-Najjar gave thanks in an impromptu news conference, including to his supporters and attorneys.
``I hope this is the end of the nightmare,'' he said.
Dressed in a blue-checkered shirt and sweater and looking pale, Al-Najjar talked about his parents, both of whom have become American citizens. He said he has been in America 19 years and five days.
As his battle for freedom dragged on through immigration hearings, federal court proceedings and the high reaches of the Justice Department, Al-Najjar said he learned to be patient.
``I learned not to be very optimistic.'' He said, adding that he spent his days dreaming ``of life and work.''
David Cole, Al-Najjar's lead attorney and a Georgetown University law professor, said his client's release proves that he should never have been imprisoned.
``If he was truly a threat to national security, why would she allow him to go free?'' he said.
Cole said he would seek damages for wrongful imprisonment.
Al-Najjar had been on the verge of freedom several times, most recently Tuesday, when Reno stopped his release, saying she wanted more time to review the case. His family had been waiting with an $8,000 check to post his bail when the stay was issued.
For the first three years of his imprisonment, Al-Najjar had been allowed only once-a-year visits from his daughters. In June, he was allowed to begin seeing them weekly like the rest of his immediate family.
Immigration Judge R. Kevin McHugh had ordered Al-Najjar's release early this month, saying the government failed to give him enough information to defend himself.
McHugh viewed the classified evidence in chambers and said that a declassified summary given to Al-Najjar was not sufficient to keep him behind bars and set bail.
However, the government appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which ordered Al-Najjar detained indefinitely, pending further study.
The board lifted the order earlier this week, and federal immigration attorneys immediately turned to Reno.
About a dozen immigrants, mostly Arabs living in America, have been detained in U.S. jails without criminal charges on the basis of classified evidence, according to Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich.
Cole, who has worked on 13 such cases, said he believes the government uses secret evidence when it knows its case would disintegrate if made public, rather than to protect national security.
Al-Najjar, who was born in Gaza and raised in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, has been in the United States since 1981. His student visa expired years ago and he has been living here illegally since.
He has appealed a deportation order, partly on grounds that because he has no homeland, he has nowhere to go. A federal appeals court hearing was set for Jan. 9.
Reno said the government expects the appellate court will uphold the deportation ``in the next few months.'' She defended the detention, saying courts have twice ordered Al-Najjar deported ``based solely on public record evidence.''
``Three years and seven months, it will prove undeportable,'' said Al-Najjar.
He was associated with the World and Islam Studies Enterprise, a think tank affiliated with the University of South Florida, and the Islamic Committee for Palestine, a group with a stated mission of fostering better understanding of Muslim issues.
The U.S. government maintained that the Florida organizations fronted for the Islamic Jihad, which has claimed responsibility for terrorist bombings in the Middle East.
As Al-Najjar exited the detention center, Gamal ``Alex'' Farag rested on his knees.
``This is a sign of freedom and justice for all,'' he said, holding a fistful of American flags he bought after learning of his friend's release.
|Re: Al-Najjar's release|
|12/16/00 at 15:57:11|
I decided to post the story from the sptimes because it written with emotion and sincerity. Whereas, the AP version of the story was 'cold.' If you want, check out washingtontimes.com to read there version, obviously they weren't very happy with his release. There dislike is subtle, so read between the lines, and their earlier articles on Najjar and secret evidence and you will see it as clearly as daylight.
I am so happy. :) :)
By SUSAN ASCHOFF
BRADENTON -- Mazen Al-Najjar, detained without charges for three years and seven months as a suspected terrorist, walked out of jail Friday afternoon to be enveloped by his tearful children and a community of supporters who never gave up.
It took an order from Attorney General Janet Reno to finally free the Tampa professor. Orders for his release issued over the past nine days by an immigration judge and an immigration appeals panel were stayed when the Immigration and Naturalization Service objected.
Reno announced her decision before noon, beating a self-imposed 5 p.m. deadline so Al-Najjar's family could pay the $8,000 bail before the Bradenton INS office closed.
"It is a great day for justice. It feels as if I've awakened from the nightmare," the 43-year-old Palestinian said on the steps of the detention facility. Wearing a cardigan and slacks brought to the jail by family, his brown hair now white, Al-Najjar faced reporters and friends, many of whom carried American flags because "we believe in the Constitution," he said.
His 10-year-old daughter, Sarah, would not release his hand. When he finished speaking, he scooped up Safa, 5. His eldest daughter, 12-year-old Yara, stood to the side. While she waited for her father to come out, Yara insisted he would not, that the government would "trick us again."
Now, her father motioned to her. Yara went to him, her eyes tearful. He kissed her forehead, and touched her cheek.
"Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar! God is great! God is great!," chanted the crowd, many of them members of Al-Najjar's mosque in east Tampa.
His release is the latest chapter in a six-year controversy that began with accusations that he and others at a University of South Florida-affiliated think tank were harboring and funding Middle East terrorists. His detention would become an international cause. The use of secret evidence against Al-Najjar and others was discussed in Congress and referred to in a campaign debate by President-elect George W. Bush.
Al-Najjar has always maintained his innocence. On Friday, he said he never lost faith in his adopted country.
"It is only in this great country that my parents would become U.S. citizens. They've never been citizens anywhere," he said of their naturalization ceremonies earlier this year.
"The dark side of the experience is . . . me."
Al-Najjar remains under a deportation order and is working to fight it. His attorneys are scheduled to argue his case and that of his wife, Fedaa, before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in January. Ironically, Al-Najjar now will claim that the U.S. government's accusations of terrorism, though unproven, mean no country will take him and that he must be given political asylum here.
In a written statement Friday, Reno said she believes the nation has been "well-served by the efforts of the INS to remove Mr. Al-Najjar expeditiously from the country. We anticipate that he could be deported from the United States soon."
Reno phoned House Minority Whip David Bonior and Sen. Spencer Abraham, both of Michigan, on Friday to inform them first of her decision to lift the stay. Bonior introduced legislation to ban the use of secret evidence. He flew to Tampa for Al-Najjar's expected release on Tuesday, which was halted by Reno for further review.
"Although I regret it took the Justice Department 1,300 days to release Mazen Al-Najjar, I am pleased that this day has finally come," he said.
INS and FBI agents began looking at Al-Najjar about the time the Tampa Tribune reported in May 1995 that he and his brother-in-law, tenured USF professor Sami Al-Arian, were at the center of a terrorist cell operating out of Tampa.
A think tank called the World and Islam Studies Enterprise, or WISE, was a cover for fundraising and plotting, agents said.
The investigation ignited when a WISE administrator, Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, became the new leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in October 1995, a few months after leaving Tampa. The Damascus-based group claims bombings to derail the Middle East peace process.
A grand jury closed its investigation without taking any action. No one has been charged with a crime.
But Al-Najjar's visa had long ago expired. Agents arrested him in May 1997 and asked him about his friends. He was ordered deported and detained without bail on secret evidence alleging "an association with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad."
After losing in immigration courts, and with no more information on why he was jailed than when he started, Al-Najjar sought relief in federal court. U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard ordered a rehearing, saying the one in 1997 violated his constitutional right to due process -- he could not defend himself against secret evidence, she said in her ruling last May.
The task went to the same judge who denied Al-Najjar bail in the first place.
This time Immigration Judge R. Kevin McHugh again heard the government's secret evidence. But McHugh said the summary to be shared with Al-Najjar was insufficient. On Dec. 6, McHugh ordered him released. Three stays by the government followed, the last one by Reno.
There are almost two dozen cases involving secret evidence against immigrants across the United States. In some, detainees eventually were given pages of evidence, while Al-Najjar has received only the one sentence tying him to the terrorist group.
"I think it's better Janet Reno was the one who let him out," his sister Nahla Al-Arian said Friday. "It helps his image in the community. He is not a bad man."
Since 1987, 18 immigrants known to be jailed on secret evidence -- virtually all of them Arabs or Muslims -- have won their cases and been released.
DECEMBER 1981: Mazen Al-Najjar enters United States from Gaza on a student visa and studies for his master's degree at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro.
JUNE 1986: Al-Najjar moves to Tampa to be near family and friends and earn a doctorate in engineering at the University of South Florida.
MAY 7, 1987: Al-Najjar asks the Immigration and Naturalization Service to meet with him on his now-messy immigration status. He eventually obtains a work permit, but no resolution.
FEB. 13, 1995: Al-Najjar's immigration case reopened.
MAY 1995: Tampa Tribune publishes stories linking Al-Najjar and his brother-in-law Sami Al-Arian to Middle East terrorists.
JULY 18, 1996: An immigration hearing on Al-Najjar begins in Orlando, with the government seeking to deport him as an illegal resident.
MAY 13, 1997: Al-Najjar and his wife, Fedaa, are ordered deported on expired visas, he to the United Arab Emirates and she to Saudi Arabia, their last countries of residence.
MAY 19: INS agents arrest Al-Najjar at his Temple Terrace apartment and take him to an INS detention facility in Bradenton to be held while he appeals the deportation order.
JUNE 6: Immigration Judge R. Kevin McHugh denies bail after reviewing classified evidence from the government. McHugh issues a one-sentence summary that says Al-Najjar is "associated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and a threat to national security."
JULY 7, 1998: Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder, after reviewing Al-Najjar's case, says his detention on secret evidence complies with procedures.
SEPT. 15: The Board of Immigration Appeals upholds McHugh's denial of bail.
DEC. 7: Al-Najjar asks to leave for Guyana in South America. No country in the Middle East will take him because he is a Palestinian, and accused of terrorism, he says. Guyana later denies admission as well.
DEC. 22, 1999: Al-Najjar's attorneys file a habeas petition in a Miami federal court, demanding his release on constitutional grounds.
MAY 31, 2000: U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard in Miami rules the government violated Al-Najjar's constitutional rights. If it wants to keep him jailed on secret evidence, it must give him enough information about it to defend himself. She orders a rehearing on bail, but stops short of releasing him herself.
JULY 24: Amnesty International declares Mazen Al-Najjar a prisoner of conscience and asks the U.S. Justice Department to review his case.
AUG. 29: Immigration Judge McHugh begins the public bail hearing for Al-Najjar. The government introduces videotapes of political conferences held in the early 1990s; Sami Al-Arian, Al-Najjar's brother-in-law, takes the stand and invokes his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 100 times because he, too, is under investigation.
AUG. 30: INS agent William West fails to offer proof of his allegations that Al-Najjar solicited money for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and exhibits cursory knowledge of Middle East politics and history during second day of bond hearing.
AUG. 31: Al-Najjar's attorneys call a halt when the government says it is ready to present secret evidence in a closed-door session with McHugh. Georgetown University law professor David Cole argues that McHugh must rule on the public portion of hearing first, and not take secret evidence until he ensures that a summary to be given Al-Najjar is adequate.
SEPT. 12: Lenard, the federal judge, agrees with Al-Najjar's attorneys, saying the immigration judge must first rule on bail based on the public case, then may proceed to the classified one. She does not order the government to release its summary in advance.
OCT. 10: Al-Najjar's bail hearing resumes, and in four days of testimony the government labels monies raised for orphans and in personal accounts as fundraising for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Al-Najjar counters that none of the activity was for terrorists.
OCT. 27: Immigration Judge McHugh says he will release Al-Najjar immediately, finding the government failed to prove a single allegation in open court, unless the government now wants to submit secret evidence.
DEC. 6: After hearing secret testimony, then reviewing a one-page summary of its contents to be shared with Al-Najjar, Immigration Judge McHugh finds summary inadequate and orders Al-Najjar released on $8,000 bail. The Board of Immigration Appeals in Washington grants a 24-hour hold at the request of the INS, which says it wants to appeal. The stay is extended indefinitely the next day.
DEC. 11: INS has little likelihood of winning its appeal, the Board of Immigration Appeals finds, and vacates the stay so Al-Najjar can bail out.
DEC. 12: Family and friends are at the jail when doors open at 8, but after more than an hour's wait, Attorney General Janet Reno stays Al-Najjar's release, until 5 p.m. Dec. 15 and pending her decision about whether the government will proceed. Al-Najjar's attorneys object with Reno and with U.S. District Judge Lenard in Miami.
DEC. 15: Al-Najjar released on bail.
- Compiled by researcher Caryn Baird
|Re: Al-Najjar's release|
|12/16/00 at 19:45:09|
|That poor man and his family!!!!|
I never did like Reno.
This world is filled with anti-Arabs and Muslims!!!
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