United Sneaks of America

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News Hits is still reeling from the secret deportation of Rabih Haddad. Talk about sneaky. Earlier this month, the U.S. government deported the Muslim cleric, who was arrested in December 2001 for overstaying his tourist visa and kept behind bars for more than 18 months.

As a final blow, Haddad was prohibited from telling his wife that he’d been deported until he was en route to his native Lebanon. Even his attorney, Ashraf Nubani, was kept in the dark.

Haddad’s case has drawn national attention since he was taken from his Ann Arbor home the same day that federal agents raided and froze assets of Global Relief Foundation, an Islamic charity Haddad co-founded in suburban Chicago. The government alleged that Global Relief funneled money to Middle Eastern terrorists; Haddad and other GRF members have denied any terrorist links.

Global Relief is now “out of business,” says its attorney, Roger C. Simmons. He says the charity’s assets, about $900,000, remain frozen. A suit has been filed in an attempt to retrieve that money.

“What was interesting was they never charged him or his organization with a crime, and this is someone they said was so dangerous,” says Nubani.

News organizations, including Metro Times, sued the government and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft last year over the closing of Haddad’s immigration hearings; the courts ruled that the hearings had to be open.

In an attempt to remain in this country, Haddad applied for asylum here, claiming that he may be tortured if returned to Lebanon. His application was denied, and on July 11 the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to hear his case. The government sent him packing July 14.

An immigration case involving Haddad’s family was tied to his asylum application. Now that he has been deported, they also must leave.

Attorney Noel Saleh, who represents Haddad’s wife, Salma al-Rushaid, and their four children, says that the family will soon leave for Kuwait, where al-Rushaid’s family resides.

As for Haddad, Nubani, says, “In the end he is vindicated, because if he was the threat or danger that the U.S. made him out to be, they never would have let him go.”

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