One case involves 35-year-old Nabil Almarabh. The June 12 Washington Post reported that one week after the attacks on the World Trade Center Almarabh was arrested at gunpoint by FBI agents at the store in Illinois where he was working. The Syrian citizen was among the more than 1,200 immigrants who were rounded up and jailed allegedly in connection with the investigation of the September 11 events.
Following his arrest, Almarabh was kept in solitary confinement for more than eight months without seeing a judge or being assigned a lawyer. It was not until May 22, two weeks after he was interviewed by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General, that he was brought before a federal magistrate to face charges.
Almarabh’s case "has provoked outrage among civil liberties advocates and criminal defense attorneys, who argue that it is one of the more extreme examples of how the government has violated the due process rights of hundreds of people swept in the nationwide terrorism investigation," reported the Post. His incarceration "represents possibly the longest period of time that any person detained after the Sept. 11 attacks has been denied access to a judicial proceeding," added the paper.
"If you read about something like this happening to a United States citizen in China, or in Cuba--that they had held an American citizen for eight months without bringing him before a judge--the State Department would go crazy," said Mark Kriger, a defense attorney in Detroit.
During his term in solitary, Almarabh was allowed out of his cell for only 30 minutes a day. He was moved in leg irons and handcuffs attached to heavy waist chains. More than once he went on hunger strike to protest his treatment by prison officials.
Trying to lay out a legal basis for Almarabh’s detention, government officials have said that he is being held as a material witness. They have also claimed a right to hold him flowing from his alleged attempt some time ago to illegally cross the U.S.-Canadian border. The authorities have reinstated a deportation order issued at that time--something the attorney general is entitled to do under the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act, which also exempts such a decision from review by an immigration judge.
Under the bipartisan USA Patriot Act signed into law by Bush last October, an immigrant whose deportation is unlikely to occur in the "reasonably foreseeable future" can be detained for additional periods of up to six months if his or her release is deemed by authorities to "threaten national security" or the "safety of the community or any person."
The Justice Department also claims that Almarabh’s alleged infringements of immigration law mean that he has forfeited his right to see an immigration judge.
U.S. citizen jailed and denied counsel
Another inmate, Yasser Esam Hamdi, is being held in a prison in Norfolk, Virginia. Hamdi was originally captured during the U.S. war on Afghanistan and was sent to the prison camp at the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo Bay. He was later transferred to U.S. soil after government officials learned that he is a U.S. citizen. Although Hamdi has not been charged with committing a crime, the Justice Department has argued in court that he should not be allowed to talk to a lawyer, and has appealed a ruling by a Federal District Court in Norfolk that he be allowed to meet with the public defender.
"It appears that Hamdi has a Sixth Amendment right to be represented by counsel," noted the editors of the New York Times on June 11.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department has ordered immigration and customs agents at U.S. border crossings to maintain a special scrutiny of all Yemeni citizens traveling to and from the United States. The Immigration and Naturalization Service has sent a memorandum to agents at all airports, ports, and border crossings to screen and search all baggage in the possession of Yemenis.
In another move undermining constitutional rights, a state appeals court in New Jersey announced June 12 that it does not have the authority to compel federal officials to disclose the names of those detained and jailed within state boundaries after the September 11 attacks. The Justice Department has refused to release the names and locations of detainees, and under the pretext of protecting "national security" has barred the press and public from hearings on detainees’ immigration status.
The June 12 decision overrules one in March by a Hudson County Superior Court Judge, who ruled in favor of the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. The civil liberties body sought information about the detainees with a view to offering them legal counsel.
U.S. gov’t begins jailing citizens without charges
First fruits of ‘preemptive action’ at home and abroad
Washington’s preemptive actions
U.S. govt to fingerprint ‘security risk’ visitors
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