“These four weeks have felt like a year to me,” Muslim Islamic Academy student Salim Al-Churbaji said, referring to the month his teacher, Rabih Haddad, has spent in jail.

Haddad, a local Muslim leader, was the source of much discussion last night as about 250 people gathered to hear a discussion with U.S. Rep. Lynn Rivers (D-Ann Arbor) and Michael Steinberg, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan”s legal director.

“Many members of our campus look up to (Haddad),” LSA junior and Students Allied for Freedom and Equality member Fadi Kiblawi said.

Haddad was charged with having an expired visa and is being investigated because of his connection to the Global Relief Fund, a charity organization the U.S. Justice Department suspects of having links to terrorism.

Haddad”s students said they do not believe he could possibly be connected to any terrorist organizations.

“He told us the terrorist attacks are against Islam, and the civilians in those buildings on September 11 were innocent,” Muslim Islamic Academy student Abdallah Khatib said.

“If he is such a danger to society, how can we all be there for him?” Khatib asked.

“He is more American than I am he is not a criminal,” Al-Churbaji said.

The speakers and audience members expressed their concern over allegations that Haddad is not being allowed access to his lawyers or being given a speedy and fair trial.

“When accused of a crime, we”ll be allowed to know the charges against us, who made the charges, what the evidence used against us is, have a lawyer, speak privately to the lawyer to plan our defense and trial by jury in public,” Rivers said.

Rivers said the secrecy surrounding Haddad”s case is cause for alarm. All of Haddad”s legal proceedings have been closed to the public and the media.

“People who founded this government wanted it to be different they wanted it to respect the rights of all individuals,” Rivers said. “Not just people who are citizens are protected under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.”

Rivers was concerned that some citizens believe Haddad is not entitled to a fair trial because he is not a U.S. citizen.

“Persons not citizens is the word used over and over in the 14th Amendment and that use is deliberate and meaningful,” Rivers said.

The Founding Fathers understood that the power of the Federal government was so much greater than any individual, there had to be protection, Rivers said.

“Because we are afraid, we are abandoning these sacred protections,” Rivers said. “The average person doesn”t understand why this is wrong.”

Steinberg urged the audience not to “feed into unfair stereotypes of people and guard against knee-jerk reactions.”

He said he feels such conduct “destroys trust between law enforcement and the very people who could help.”

“Secrecy in judicial proceedings is a foreign concept to the U.S.,” Steinberg said. “Without open proceedings the check is gone.”

Steinberg said writing to Congress and the Immigration and Naturalization Service is one way citizens can help Haddad, but it will probably be a long and difficult process.

SAFE planned the event, but it also received some funding from other student groups.

“Last night we made a lot more fliers and a program within the last two hours because of Michigan Student Assembly funding,” Kiblawi said.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.