[fla-left] [civil liberties] High-profile inmate is moved again (fwd)

Michael Hoover hoov at SPAMfreenet.tlh.fl.us
Fri May 12 08:17:25 MDT 2000


forwarded by Michael Hoover

> High-profile inmate is moved again
>
> A Tampa man suspected of having ties to terrorists is out of maximum
> security after a U.S. congressman and an attorney complain.
>
> [Beneath this article: "Congressman's call moves Palestinian from strict
> cell"]
>
> By SUSAN ASCHOFF
>
> =A9 St. Petersburg Times, published May 11, 2000
>
> BRADENTON -- A jailed Tampa man who was moved to maximum security two days
> ago because of his high-profile case was returned to his previous floor
> Wednesday after objections from a U.S. congressman.
>
> Mazen Al-Najjar has been detained three years on secret government evidence
> accusing him of ties to Middle East terrorists. No charges have been filed.
> He is appealing a deportation order.
>
> After recent visits from the president of the American Civil Liberties
> Union and members of Congress, Al-Najjar was moved Monday to a restrictive
> area in a Bradenton jail because his is a high-profile case, the Manatee
> County Sheriff's Office said.
>
> Some saw the change as punitive.
>
> Supporters' concerns were reported in the St. Petersburg Times on
> Wednesday. Wednesday afternoon, U.S. House Minority Whip David Bonior,
> D-Mich., phoned jail officials, as did one of Al-Najjar's attorneys, Joseph
> Hohenstein of Philadelphia.
>
> "They were not happy with the fact that we moved him. They voiced their
> displeasure," said sheriff's spokesman David Bristow. About two hours after
> Bonior's call, Al-Najjar was returned to his previous floor and the
> conditions he has been held in since he was arrested: full access to
> phones, more
> freedom to move about and the opportunity to volunteer in the laundry and
> clinic.
>
> Bristow said the Sheriff's Office has received no instruction from the
> Immigration and Naturalization Service about how to treat the 42-year-old
> Palestinian refugee -- as a dangerous terrorist or simple visa violator.
> The Sheriff's Office operates the jail under contract with the INS. The INS
> has told
> immigration judges that Al-Najjar is a terrorist operative and a threat to
> national security.
>
> Before moving Al-Najjar back on Wednesday, Bristow said, approval from INS
> had been obtained.
>
> Al-Najjar, in a phone call from the jail minutes after the move, said his
> hope was renewed. "I feel that, because we have a free media and a great
> legislator, there is always a chance to move things ahead."
>
> ----------------------------
>
> May 11, 2000 - 01:01 AM
>
> Congressman's call moves Palestinian from strict cell
> By MICHAEL FECHTER (Tampa Tribune)
>
> Angry appeals prompted Manatee County jail officials to reverse course
> Wednesday and move a jailed Palestinian researcher out of a high-security
> cell and back to a low-security ward.
>
> Until this week, Mazen Al-Najjar had been in the low-security ward with
> relatively high freedom of movement and telephone access.
>
> When his attorney and U.S. Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich., called Wednesday to
> demand answers and challenge his being moved to a high-security cell, the
> Manatee County Sheriff's Office listened.
>
> `We felt a little pressure there, there's no question about that,'' said
> sheriff's spokesman Dave Bristow. ``A member of Congress calls, you feel
> pressure.''
>
> The sheriff's office houses Immigration and Naturalization Service inmates
> at the Manatee jail under a contract with the INS.
>
> The county recently opened a new annex for INS inmates. In moving 80 people
> to new cells, they re-evaluated Al-Najjar's case and decided he should be
> in amore secure confinement because of the high-profile nature of his case,
> Bristow said.
>
> ``It's not a discipline thing. He hasn't been a discipline problem,''
> Bristow said.
>
> Sheriff's Maj. Richard Ferrence, who runs the jail, asked the INS if it
> objected to returning Al-Najjar to his former cell. When the INS didn't
> object, the move was reversed Wednesday afternoon, Bristow said.
>
> Andy Kayton, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer working on the case,
> said the move to the high-security cell was deeply offensive and compounded
> the already questionable circumstances that put Al-Najjar in jail.
>
> ``If he were a criminal, he would receive better treatment,'' Kayton said.
>
> On May 19, Al-Najjar will mark his third year in jail without being
> charged. Secret evidence he has never seen prompted an immigration judge to
> deny him bail while he appeals a deportation order as a national security
> threat. The evidence, the judge said, deals with Al-Najjar's associations
> with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group.
>
> Bonior and U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Calif., have legislation pending to
> ban the use of secret evidence in American courts. Both have visited
> Al-Najjar in  jail.
>
> Al-Najjar was ordered deported by an immigration judge in 1997 for visa
> violations. The order was issued before the secret evidence entered the
> case.
>
> Al-Najjar worked with a Palestinian charity and a related think tank based
> in Tampa that federal law enforcement agents suspect were fronts for the
> Jihad. A former director, Ramadan Shallah, assumed command of the Jihad in
> October 1995, less than six months after leaving Tampa.
>
> Al-Najjar denies any connection to the group. A five-year criminal
> investigation has yet to produce charges. An appeal for his freedom is
> pending before a federal judge in Miami. Unable to see the evidence against
> him, Al-Najjar is unable to challenge it. That, his lawyers say, is
> unconstitutional.
>
> Michael Fechter can be reached at (813) 259-7621.





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