House Committee Holds Hearing on Bill Ending Secret Evidence in American Courts
WASHINGTON, DC — Members of Congress, victims of secret evidence and civil rights leaders today demanded an end to the use of secret evidence at a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. Testimony centered on HR 2121, the Secret Evidence Repeal Act, a bill which would end the use of secret evidence in all American court procedures. Since 1996, more than 25 individuals, almost all of them Arab and/or Muslim, have been arrested without charge and jailed on the basis of evidence withheld from them, their attorneys and the public.
One victim of secret evidence, Anwar Haddam, has announced that he is going on a hunger strike. Haddam, who was elected to Algeria‘s parliament before the 1991 coup in that country, has been held in US jails for more than three and a half years without charge and on the basis of evidence withheld from him and his attorneys. The US government has never accused him of any wrongdoing. The INS claims that it is attempting to deport Haddam to a third country, but seems more intent on keeping him in jail indefinitely. A statement issued by his family says “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.” ADC President Hala Maksoud said “We call upon the government to release Anwar Haddam immediately. There can be no justification for holding him in jail when he can go to a third country. Mr. Haddam‘s hunger strike is another sign of the desperation that naturally results from this unjust abuse.” ADC is also alarmed by reports that prison authorities attempted to punish another victim of secret evidence, Mazen Al-Najjar, for attracting significant support for his case. ADC once again demands his immediate release. Prison authorities in Tampa moved Al-Najjar to a high-security area for criminal immigrants, with tighter restrictions on movement and less privileges, following visits to him by ACLU President Nadine Strossen and Rep. Tom Campbell (R-CA). Al-Najjar, who has been jailed without charge for over three years, has also been visited twice by House Democratic Whip David Bonior (D-MI). The move was rescinded after an intervention with the authorities by Bonior, but appears to have been a retaliatory punishment for Al-Najjar‘s increasingly high-level support. “He is a high-profile inmate, and we decided we need him in a more secure area,” a prison spokesperson told the St. Petersburg Times.
H.R. 2121, the Secret Evidence Repeal Act, would abolish the use of secret evidence. The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to conduct hearings on the bill on May 23. ADC strongly urges all Members of Congress to vote for this legislation and end the nightmare of secret evidence. Almost all secret evidence cases have involved defendants who are Arab or Muslim.