Civil Rights Lawyers Fight Government's Efforts to Detain Immigrants on Basis of "Secret Evidence"

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
November 7, 2001 12:00 am

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Civil Rights Lawyers Fight Government’s Efforts to Detain Immigrants on Basis of “Secret Evidence”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MIAMI — Nearly one year after a federal court here ordered the release of a Palestinian immigrant who was jailed for nearly four years on the basis of “secret evidence,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and other rights groups are still fighting the government’s efforts to jail immigrants on the basis of evidence kept secret from them and their attorneys.

“Since September 11th, the government has detained over 1,000 immigrants, and it undoubtedly will seek to rely on secret evidence to detain and deport many more of them,” said Randall Marshall, Legal Director of the ACLU of Florida.

In a hearing scheduled for tomorrow morning, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit will hear arguments in Al Najjar v. Ashcroft et al. The federal government is appealing a May 2000 Miami federal court decision that declared the detention of Al Najjar unconstitutional because it deprived him of his liberty without affording him the opportunity to defend himself. Lawyers from the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Georgetown University Law Center and the Nationalities Service Center are representing Al Najjar.

“At issue here is whether our government can lock up people without affording them a meaningful chance to defend themselves,” said David Cole of the Georgetown University Law Center, who has been serving as lead counsel for Al Najjar.

“Mr. Al Najjar lost three and a half years of his life to incarceration because of this practice,” Cole added. “The fact that Attorney General Janet Reno ultimately authorized his release shows that he never posed a true threat to national security in the first place.”

In December 2000, Al Najjar was freed after an immigration judge gave him a new bond hearing and ruled that the government had failed to show that he was a threat to national security. At the time, the Attorney General declined to exercise her authority to bar Al Najjar’s release. Al Najjar has been free ever since, and the government in August 2001 abandoned its administrative efforts to detain him. The government nonetheless is pursuing this federal appeal, in an apparent effort to establish the right to rely upon secret evidence.

Al Najjar is represented by Marshall, Cole, Nancy Chang of the Center for Constitutional Rights; Joseph Hohenstein of the Nationalities Service Center; Martin Schwartz, an immigration attorney in Tampa, Florida; and Ira Kurzban, an immigration attorney in Miami.

The hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. on November 8 in the 12th Floor Courtroom of the Federal Justice Building, 99 N.E. Fourth Street, in downtown Miami, Florida.

To learn more about Dr. Al Najjar’s ordeal, read the following news releases:

Emergency Motion Filed in Federal Court Seeking Immediate Release of Palestinian Jailed on Secret Evidence /node/9275.

Judge Orders Release of Palestinian Immigrant Jailed by U.S. /node/9274.

Lawyers for Palestinian Jailed on “Secret Evidence” Say INS Judge Flouted Order to Disclose Documents /node/9277

ACLU Seeks Release of Palestinian Immigrant Held for Over Two Years on Secret Evidence http://archive.aclu.org/news/1999/n122299c.html.

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