Editor's note: Please note the correction regarding FIS. The organization is not listed with the U.S. government as a terrorist organization.
Algerian politician and academic Dr. Anwar Haddam, one of two-dozen immigrants in the United States detained under so-called secret evidence, accused the Immigration and Naturalization Service and other federal agencies of trying to silence his political activities.
Haddam, who came to the United States as an asylum seeker, was released on parole just last week after spending four years in U.S. correctional facilities without charge. Haddam was recently granted political asylum by the Board of Immigration Appeal, but Attorney General Janet Reno ordered a 45-day stay in the latest twist of this convoluted case.
His tempered victory comes after a coordinated national effort by U.S. politicians, activists and supporters who maintain his detention was unconstitutional because he could not see or defend himself on the evidence presented against him. Arab and Muslim American groups as well as civil rights organizations say the use of this law almost exclusively targets Arabs and Muslims.
In an interview with iviews.com, Haddam expressed frustration over his ordeal and criticized the government for what he says was an attempt to curb his political activities.
"The INS deliberately prolonged my case so that they could build a case against me. I was put away for my political activities by certain quarters within the U.S. government," said Haddam.
Haddam, a professor of nuclear physics, was elected to the Algerian parliament in December of 1991 during the country's first ever multipartite and free elections. The Algerian regime, refusing to accept the results of the democratically held elections, orchestrated a military coup one month later, leading the country to a bloody civil war. He was then selected to represent his party, the Algeria's Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) abroad to lobby for support from the international community. Haddam chose the U.S. as a base from which to continue his political activities and made many trips to Europe and participated in international conferences and forums.
But he said his activities came to a halt on December 6, 1996, when INS agents raided his home at 7:00am and "brutally" arrested him.
What followed was what he described as four very difficult years of detention, almost half of which was spent in a maximum-security prison. At one point, Haddam went on a hunger strike to protest his treatment.
"Being forced to live 1,462 days with criminals, that was real torture," he said. "What was even worse was when they kept moving me from jail to jail away from my attorney. That's really unfair and that shouldn't have happened."
He said he experienced delay after delay, while INS investigators worked to build a case against him. But he says the evidence was nothing more than hearsay taken from his political opponents, the Algerian military regime.
The INS maintains he is a "persecutor" and incites others to violate human rights in Algeria.
But Haddam insists he is fighting for the right to self-determination in Algeria and will likely resume his activities once his case is resolved.
He also accused the INS of abusing its power and said the agency should have a body to oversee its activities.
"It has too much power and is out of control. There are certain people with certain agendas [within the U.S. government] against Muslim activities in the United States," he said.
Haddam expressed gratitude for the letters that came to him while in detention and to the attorney general's office, which pleaded for his release. Haddam said he hoped Muslims would continue to ask Reno for his asylum.
Although he remained uncertain about the outcome of his case, he expressed a desire to return one day to his country.
Haddam is expected to join Congressman David Bonior at a news conference today in Washington about his case. Bonior has been among one of the most vocal critics in the use of secret evidence. In an interview with the Associated Press last week, Bonior called for Reno's resignation and expressed outrage at her "Gestapo-like tactics". The congressman was also part of a delegation that recently visited Haddam at the Rappahannock Regional Jail in Stafford, Virginia. The Michigan lawmaker has also been working with other members of Congress to repeal the law that allows the use of secret evidence. At least 100 members of Congress are co-sponsoring the legislation. Presidential candidates Al Gore, George W. Bush and Ralph Nader called for reforms of its use.
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