CHICAGO – Detroit Muslim cleric Rabbih Haddad is still in a jail in Chicago, as he has been for more than 100 days. His family is still threatened with deportation, and Haddad himself has still not been charged with any crime. Supporters of constitutional rights, due process and rights for Arab-Americans and Muslims have been actively organizing and speaking out against this situation producing some heartening results.

Haddad now reports that he has been taken out of the brutal solidary confinement in which he was placed after his detention in Detroit on minor immigration charges. He has now gotten more opportunities to communicate with his family and others.

At two rallies held here March 22 and 23, sponsored by the Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism and others, Haddad’s supporters were heartened by this message from the prisoner. They also heard presentations from a variety of other speakers who issued a warning call about the severe encroachments on the rights of Arab-Americans and Muslims, including new invasions of Arab American and Muslim organizations and homes just this week.

Dr. Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian immigrant who was teaching at the University of South Florida, detailed two shocking examples. His brother-in-law, Mazen al Najjar, was arrested by the INS and was being processed for deportation under the “secret evidence” clause of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton in 1996.

Under this law, persons the Attorney General wishes to kick out of the country, as well as their attorneys, can be denied the right to see the evidence that is being used for the purpose of deporting them. Though this is a blatant violation of the Sixth Amendment, the government has attempted it with 29 persons since 1996.

In almost all the cases, the government’s case fell flat, and Mazen al Najjar’s case was no exception. The federal judge who heard the case ordered Najjar’s release, on the basis of the fact that the “secret evidence” the government had presented was actually no evidence at all.

At that point, then Attorney General Janet Reno decided to drop the case. However, one of the first things Attorney General Ashcroft did after Sept. 11 was to rearrest Mazen al Najjar for deportation under the USA/PATRIOT Act. The government does not even claim that Najjar had anything to do with Sept. 11, it simply has moved, as Al-Arian quipped, from deporting people on the basis of “secret evidence” to deporting them on the basis of “no evidence.”

The second case detailed by Al-Arian, who had helped to establish a special Islamic studies program at the University of South Florida in Tampa, was that of himself. Al-Arian has been an outspoken critic of Israeli policy in the Middle East. After Sept. 11, he was subjected to a campaign of vilification in the press, leading to a massive number of death threats.

The University has now announced it is firing him because his continued presence on Campus represents a danger to others – not because of things he might do, but because of what others might do to him. Al Arian has, in turn, received an outpouring of support from civil libertarians and academics, and his case is being taken up by the American Association of University Professors as involving a blatant violation of academic freedom and due process.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org

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