Leaders of Arab and Muslim American organizations are renewing calls for U.S. Justice Department Officials to release Anwar Haddam, an Algerian politician and academic.
Today protestors gathered in front of the U.S. Department of Justice in hopes of pressuring government to release him. This week marks the four-year anniversary 45 year-old Haddam has spent in detention without charge. His attorneys and supporters contend he is one of approximately two-dozen immigrants in the United States detained under the so-called "Secret Evidence" law.
Arab and Muslim American groups as well as civil rights organizations say the use of this law almost exclusively targets Arabs and Muslims. The groups also say the law is unconstitutional because it allows the government to detain people without revealing the evidence against them.
"What makes secret evidence so pernicious is the basis for which it is used - a person's deeply held beliefs and association, the very things that are supposed to be protected by the venerated Constitution of the United States of America," said El-Hajj Mauri' Saalakhan Director of the Peace and Justice Foundation.
Democratic House Whip Rep. David Bonior has been among one of the most vocal critics in the use of secret evidence. At a news conference earlier this week, Bonior joined others in demanding Haddam's release. The congressman was also part of a delegation that recently visited Haddam at the Rappahannock Regional Jail in Stafford, Virginia. Bonior has also been working with other members of Congress to repeal the law.
"Three federal judges have ruled that the use of secret evidence is unconstitutional. When the government was finally forced to reveal the evidence in these cases, it was hearsay or unsubstantiated. Unfortunately, about 20 more people remain detained under secret evidence. All but one of these men are Arab or Muslim," said Bonior during Congressional testimony earlier this year.
More than 110 members of Congress have already co-sponsored a resolution supporting the Secret Evidence Repeal Act.
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 d'etat one month later, leading the country to a bloody civil war.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) took Haddam into custody when they raided his U.S. home in December of 1996. In May of this year, Haddam was finally granted political asylum following a petition submitted by his wife, but the decision was immediately overturned by the U.S. Justice Department, forcing Haddam to remain in jail.
His wife maintains his innocence and has lobbied members of the government to review his case. She says her husband's mission, until the time of his incarceration, has been "to explain to the international public opinion the complex situation in Algeria...[and to] to seek a political settlement to the Algerian crisis..."
She accuses the military of orchestrating a campaign against her husband through "front" organizations such as the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Rassemblement Algerian des Femmes Democrates (RAFD).
"The association RAFD is lead by Mrs. Leila Asslaoui, an activist and former spokeswoman of the military-backed government in Algiers," said Nassima Haddam, who herself is a political asylee.
She and others are asking sympathizers and supporters to contact the U.S. Attorney General's office to demand his release.
Last week, Haddam won his deportation case before the Board of Immigration Appeals, which granted him political asylum, but the government still refuses to release him from jail. Haddam's attorneys are planning to file a petition for habeas corpus, seeking his release.