(IVIEWS.COM and Wire Reports) - A Muslim jailed for more than three years on secret evidence will remain in custody while his case is under review, US Attorney General Janet Reno said Tuesday.
Mazen al-Najjar has been jailed in Bradenton, Florida, since May 1997, when federal agents arrested him at his Tampa, Florida, home for remaining in the country on an expired visa.
Authorities have refused to release the evidence against him.
A federal immigration judge last week ordered al-Najjar released on 8, 000-dollar bond, saying the US government violated his due process rights.
But the Board of Immigration Appeals on Monday reversed the judge's decision, and Reno agreed, saying in her order she wanted to "maintain the status quo while I personally review the appropriateness of allowing the respondent's immediate release."
Reno said she will decide by Friday whether al-Najjar should be freed.
Supporters, family and friends of al-Najjar expressed frustration at Reno's decision.
"In a day that saw high hopes and dashed dreams, it was a sad tale when over 30 community members as well as many family members including Mazen's wife, daughters, sister, nieces and nephew, as well as many media outlets showed up at the prison facility hoping to witness and celebrate Dr. Al-Najjar's freedom," said Dr. Sami Al-Arian, Chairman of the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace and al-Najjar's brother-in-law.
Also waiting outside the jail was Congressman David Bonior and his wife Judy who flew last evening to Bradenton to congratulate al-Najjar on his release.
"We are very disappointed in the Attorney General's decision. She is very familiar with the case and does not need several days to review it. An immigration Judge has already ordered his release. Her own BIA has agreed and called for his release. It's an outrage and she is putting the family in an emotional roller coaster. However, we are still very confident that Mazen will soon rejoin his family," said Al-Arian.
Al-Najjar, 43, arrived in the United States in 1981 and was an Arabic instructor at the University of South Florida at the time of his arrest.
Federal authorities have said he is an active member in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group banned in the United States, an accusation al-Najjar denies.
Al-Najjar is one of several people, most of them Arab and Muslim, detained on secret evidence under a 1996 law allowing the use of such evidence.
An Algerian national, Anwar Haddam, was freed for 45 days under the condition that he remain in the states of Maryland and Virginia, said Maria Cardona, a spokeswoman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.