This Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of Rabih Haddad’s arrest at his Ann Arbor home. He’s been jailed since. The same day feds nabbed the native of Lebanon for overstaying his visa, the Islamic charity he co-founded, Global Relief Foundation, was shut down and its assets frozen.
The U.S. Treasury Department officially designated the charity a terrorist group in October. That same month, it issued an internal memo alleging communication between Global Relief and Osama bin Laden’s personal secretary, Wadih El-Hage. El-Hage was convicted last year in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies.
The memo cites photos taken from the trash behind Global Relief’s suburban Chicago offices that depict communication equipment used by terrorist groups.
The problem is that Haddad and Global Relief have not been allowed to formally respond to the allegations.
“They haven’t charged him with a crime or the organization he is tied to with a crime,” says attorney Ashraf Nubani, who represents Haddad. “How long can you keep someone in jail without a basis?”
Attorney Roger Simmons, who represents Global Relief Foundation, expresses similar frustration.
“Through a several-month period I begged to cross-examine people and they said no on two or three occasions,” says Simmons, adding that the government contended his client was “not entitled to regular due process rights.”
The U.S. Justice Department declined to comment on the case.
Simmons says the memo can be refuted or explained. For instance, he says, El-Hage asked the charity for donations but the foundation never gave him a penny. The communication equipment depicted in the photos and allegedly used by terrorists is the same equipment used by the United Nations and other legitimate groups, says Simmons.
Without a fair hearing, Simmons’ hands are tied. He filed an injunction last year to prevent the government from shuttering Global Relief, but it was denied. He appealed the ruling to the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and awaits a decision.
Last month, Immigration Judge Robert Newberry denied Haddad’s political asylum application and ordered that he, his wife and three of their children be deported; their fourth child was born in the United States.
Haddad, who had spoken out against the Sept. 11 attacks, says in his asylum application that his life would be in danger in Lebanon. Newberry ruled that Haddad did not prove that.
Nubani is taking Newberry’s decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals. A ruling could take another six months.
Metro Times signed on as a plaintiff in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit to open up Haddad’s immigration hearings, which were conducted in secret for months. Two courts have already emphatically stated that the proceedings must be open, but the feds are appealing to the full Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Metro Times has no position regarding the government’s allegations against Haddad, but merely is advocating that his immigration hearings be open to public scrutiny.Send comments to [email protected]