|Vivek Durai on Sat, 16 Feb 2002 08:34:02 +0100 (CET)|
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|[Nettime-bold] American case with a strong similarity to Arundathi Roy's|
HEADLINE: Lawsuit challenges closed
hearings for federal detainee
Lawyers for the detained founder of a Muslim charity that was shut down as part of the government's terrorism investigation filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging his closed deportation hearings.
The lawsuit in U.S. District Court seeks to open Rabih Haddad's previous and upcoming hearings, attorney Ashraf Nubani said. Since his arrest, hearings in Immigration Court have been closed to members of his family, the press and the public. "The public has been accustomed to seeing justice and the judicial system unfold in front of the public eye so that we feel safe and safeguarded from possible abuses," Nubani said from Chicago, where Haddad was scheduled to appear before a grand jury.
Nubani noted Haddad has not been charged with any criminal activity, and no one has publicly offered evidence to link him to terrorist activity. The lawsuit claims the closed hearings are unauthorized under immigration law.
Haddad, 41, has been in government custody since his Dec. 14 arrest at his Ann Arbor home for alleged visa violations. That same day, federal agents closed the suburban Chicago offices of the Global Relief Foundation, which he co-founded.
The lawsuit names U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, U.S. Chief Immigration Judge Michael Creppy and U.S. Immigration Judge Elizabeth Hacker in Detroit as defendants.
A spokeswoman for Immigration Court headquarters in Virginia referred questions about the lawsuit to a Justice Department spokesman, who was not immediately available for comment.
In addition to Nubani, lawyers with the New York City-based Center for Constitutional Rights, the Washington, D.C., law firm of Arnold & Porter, and Detroit attorney Elizabeth Gleicher of Gleicher & Patek joined in the lawsuit.
"Open proceedings are the bedrock of our justice system," David Cole of the Center for Constitutional Rights said in a statement. "Secret trials are the hallmark of totalitarian societies."
Haddad had three hearings, all closed to the public, in immigration court in Detroit before he was transferred to the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago.
Last month, two federal lawsuits were filed seeking to open Haddad's deportation hearings.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on behalf of The Detroit News, the weekly Metro Times, and Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, and the Detroit Free Press and The Ann Arbor News filed a separate suit.
The government is trying to deport Haddad, his wife, Salma al-Rushaid, and three of their four children. The Immigration and Naturalization Service says al-Rushaid, like her husband, has overstayed a tourist visa.
On Tuesday, a judge allowed al-Rushaid and her children to remain free pending a deportation hearing scheduled for April 10. Lawyers for the family are seeking to consolidate the deportation cases before one immigration judge.