ANN ARBOR, Mich. – In a May 1 statement, Muslim clergyman Rabih Haddad charged that his five-month-long detention by the U.S. government is based on “allegations, insinuations, innuendoes and lies.”

Haddad, a long-time Ann Arbor resident and community leader respected among Muslims and Christians here, was detained by immigration officials last Dec. 14 and remains in U.S. custody.

Haddad had been in the process of attaining legal residency in the U.S. His supporters argue that he was arrested over trumped up and insignificant details that are usually ignored during this process. Haddad is being targeted, they say, because of his religion, his national origin, and most likely because of his leadership role in the Muslim community.

Haddad termed the government’s case against him fundamentally baseless. The core of the government’s case rests on its claim that he was seen in certain locations that may also have housed members of Al Qaeda. Haddad points out that he left “the region in the mid-1990s when there was no such thing as Al Qaeda.”

“I wonder if they are referring,” he remarked, “to the same overseas locations where the Consul from the U.S. Embassy used to pay me regular visits at the height of the Gulf War and where we used to share views and exchange ideas.”

Haddad said he finds it extraordinary that he is now accused of associations that, as is widely acknowledged, members of the U.S. intelligence community cultivated in the 1980s and 1990s with members of many terrorist organizations, including Osama bin Laden, in order to conduct their “cold war” against the Soviet Union.

He said the media and the legal system are using a double standard regarding guilt by association. “Why isn’t the same standard applied to the Enron scandal and the close relationships and associations its top executives have with top executives of the government?”

Haddad accused many in the corporate media of “acting like a group of sharks on a feeding frenzy.” They exaggerated the details of his case to provide a sensationalized story and sway public opinion against him, he said, while failing to do their most important job as watchdogs over the government.

“This is a sad day for democracy and freedom where the media becomes a rubber stamp for the government’s propaganda machine,” he said.

Referring to Oklahoma City terrorist Timothy McVeigh and other right-wing terror groups in the U.S., Haddad commented, “No ‘Patriot Act’ was enacted against the many U.S.-based terrorist networks, some of which are still operating today.”

Haddad’s supporters say Haddad’s case is not just that of a single individual but also represents the thousands of Muslims unfairly detained by the Bush administration.

Further hearings on Haddad’s case have been postponed again until June 19. His statement was made public by the Committee to Free Rabih Haddad.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org

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