In May 2019, the ACLU and the New York Civil Liberties Union joined a lawsuit with the Clinical Legal Education Program of the University at Buffalo School of Law challenging the government’s unlawful indefinite detention of Adham Amin Hassoun. The government claims that Mr. Hassoun is a threat to national security, but has not filed criminal charges or produced any credible evidence to support such claims. Instead, the government has unlawfully asserted the power to simply hold him in administrative detention without due process—potentially for the rest of his life. The government’s actions exceed its limited detention authority under federal statutes and violate the Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection. Mr. Hassoun’s habeas challenge seeks to vindicate his rights and secure his freedom.
Mr. Hassoun has been in federal custody since 2002, following his arrest by immigration authorities for overstaying his visa. He had been granted a student visa to study in the U.S. in 1990; during his studies, Mr. Hassoun’s mother sponsored him for a green card. The green card petition remained pending until his arrest in 2002. Five years later, Mr. Hassoun was convicted for charitably aiding Muslims suffering in military conflicts abroad in the 1990s. He was convicted under a federal statute that has been used aggressively by the U.S. government to criminalize virtually any support to groups the government deems to have engaged in terrorism. In sentencing Mr. Hassoun, the federal judge found that Mr. Hassoun posed no threat to the national security of the United States, and rejected the government’s request for a life sentence. Mr. Hassoun completed a 15-year criminal sentence in 2017, reduced by two years for good behavior, and was transferred to immigration custody, where he remains.
Mr. Hassoun was born and raised in Lebanon, and his early life was marred by ongoing violence there. Coming from a family of Palestinian refugees, today Mr. Hassoun is not a citizen of any country, including Lebanon. In January 2019, after the U.S. proved unwilling or unable to find a country to which to remove him, a federal judge ordered Mr. Hassoun’s release from custody because his detention was no longer authorized. But rather than release Mr. Hassoun per the court’s order, the government now seeks to continue Mr. Hassoun’s detention by calling him a threat to national security. Not only does this allegation lack any credible evidence, but a federal judge has already squarely rejected any such findings.
The government’s continued detention of Mr. Hassoun exceeds the detention authority granted by Congress and violates the most fundamental principles of the Constitution. To vindicate these principles and seek Mr. Hassoun’s release from unlawful imprisonment, he has filed a habeas corpus action in federal court in the Western District of New York.
District Court (W.D.N.Y.)