Last year, under questionable
circumstances, the federal government deported Rabih Haddad, a
resident of Ann Arbor and leader in the city’s Muslim
community, to Lebanon. While this media coverage of this story has
died down, a recent investigation by the Metro Times highlights the
danger Haddad’s case poses. The events surrounding
Haddad’s deportation are a prime example of the danger
present in allowing the federal government to use secret evidence
and closed hearings to prosecute its war on terrorism.

Laura Wong

On Dec. 14, 2001, agents representing the Immigration and
Naturalization Service arrested Haddad at his home in Ann Arbor and
charged him with overstaying his visa. On the same day, federal
agents also raided the headquarters of the Global Relief
Foundation, a Chicago-based Islamic charity that Haddad helped to
establish.

After arresting Haddad, authorities detained him in solitary
confinement while the INS began secret immigration hearings asking
for his deportation. Ann Arbor and Detroit residents rallied for
Haddad’s release outside of each hearing despite being barred
from the proceedings. After the American Civil Liberties Union,
Congressman John Conyers (D-Detroit) and several news agencies
filed a lawsuit, a federal district court ordered that
Haddad’s hearings be opened to the public and his case
reassigned to a different immigration judge. After the district
court ruling was upheld by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals,
the Treasury Department classified the charity as an organization
with links to terrorism, meaning evidence was withheld from the
defendant and the public on grounds of national security. Even
though Haddad and his attorneys were never granted complete access
to the evidence against him and the charity, Haddad was deported to
Lebanon in July 2003. Although his wife and children were able to
join him in Lebanon, Haddad is banned from returning to the United
States, while his family cannot return for another 10 years.

The fundamental problem with the handling of Haddad’s
case, and others like his, is the way in which the federal
government made every conceivable effort to keep the proceedings
and the evidence away from the public eye. While the veracity of
the evidence in this case cannot be established, Haddad was
entitled to the right to confront the evidence against him. This
basic constitutional protection should not be abrogated in the
prosecution of the war on terrorism.

According to the Metro Times, there are currently only three
cases involving secret evidence in the court system, including the
Global Relief case. The other two, however, also involve Islamic
charities whose operations were shut down and assets frozen in the
wake of Sept. 11. The case of Rabih Haddad, a man detained and
deported without ever having received an open and fair hearing,
should serve as a wake-up call. The federal government must abandon
the use of secret evidence if it expects to have any credibility in
prosecuting similar cases in the future.

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