INS Defies Obey Court Orders to Release Secret Evidence Victims

WASHINGTON, DC — The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is continuing to incarcerate two of the last people who remain jailed in the United States without charge and on the basis of secret evidence, in spite of court orders to release them. Yesterday, an Immigration Judge in Tampa order the release of Dr. Mazen Al-Najjar, who has been held for over three years in jail on the basis of evidence withheld from him, his attorneys and the public. The INS received a 24-hour stay on the release order and appears to be determined to keep him in jail. Last week, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) ordered the release of Anwar Haddam, who has been held for almost 4 years under similar circumstances. The INS has appealed directly to Attorney General Janet Reno to overturn this decision and refuses to release Haddam, who was granted political asylum.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the nation’s largest Arab-American membership organization, today renewed its call on the Justice Department to release both men. In a letter to Attorney General Reno, ADC President Hala Maksoud wrote “after so many years in jail without being accused of any crime, and after repeated rulings by numerous judges that they should be freed, it is unconscionable that Mazen Al-Najjar and Anwar Haddam should remain in jail. We urge you in the strongest possible terms not to interfere with the judges’ rulings and release these men, who should never have been imprisoned in the first place.” Dr. Maksoud concluded that “we strongly feel that your legacy and that of Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder should be associated with an end to the unconstitutional use of secret evidence, not its continuation in spite of numerous rulings that it violates due process rights. For the sake of these individuals, the deeply rooted traditions of fairness in the American judicial system and your own legacies, you should comply with the rulings and release these men at once.”
The actions of the Justice Department in refusing to release Al-Najjar and Haddam come in the context of burgeoning support in both houses of Congress for legislation abolishing the use of secret evidence, which seems very likely to be become law. Both the Gore and Bush campaigns have also endorsed this legislation. It has been years since the government prevailed in any major ruling on secret evidence or specific secret evidence cases, and at least 5 district court judges have ruled that it violates Fifth Amendment rights to due process. A broad coalition of groups in the National Association to Protect Political Freedom, including ADC, have led the fight against secret evidence, with the support of other organizations including the ACLU. On December 4, ADC received a letter from the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) adding its voice to those demanding an end to the use of secret evidence in American courts. In Congress the struggle to repeal secret evidence has been led by Reps. David Bonior (D-Mich) and Tom Campbell (R-CA).

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