AJustice Department Grants, Then Revokes Political Asylum for Secret Evidence Victim
WASHINGTON, DC — The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has revoked the political asylum of Anwar Haddam, an Algerian who has been jailed in the United States for over three and a half years without charge and on the basis of secret evidence. Haddam, who was elected to Algeria‘s parliament before the 1991 coup in that country, received political asylum last week based on a grant of asylum to his wife, Nassima. Today the INS revoked its decision saying that the grant “was not correct” and that “the service vacates the initial approval” of last week.
On May 11, Haddam announced that he was going on a hunger strike. He has been jailed for more than three and a half years without charge and on the basis of evidence withheld from him, his attorneys and the public. The INS claims that it is attempting to deport Haddam to a third country, yet is keeping him in jail indefinitely and preventing him from going to a third country. A statement issued by his family said “Anwar Haddam requests to be released immediately in order to be able to seek refuge in a third country where human rights and justice for all are respected regardless of gender, race, national origin, political or religious beliefs.” The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the nation‘s largest Arab-American membership organization, said that the government‘s about-face on Haddam‘s political status typifies the confusion and imprecision involved in secret evidence detentions. It strongly indicates that the government has no clear reason for continuing to detain Anwar Haddam and that his detention and deportation are based on political rather than legal considerations. ADC President Hala Maksoud said “The government‘s case is called into serious question by its use of secret evidence and is brought into further disrepute by its inexplicable action in granting and then revoking political asylum for him. We call upon the Attorney General to release Anwar Haddam immediately.” These developments are reminiscent of many other secret evidence cases such as those of Imad Hamad, Hany Kiareldeen and Nasser Ahmed, all of whom prevailed. In all these cases the government‘s arguments fell to pieces when its secret evidence was found to be unsubstantiated and unable to withstand challenge.
On May 12, ADC sent a letter to the office of Attorney General Reno urging the Justice Department to meet with Haddam‘s attorneys to discuss the case, given his grant of political asylum. This meeting is now even more urgently called for since the INS has revoked the asylum.