Mazen Al-Najjar Finally to be Released from Jail
WASHINGTON, DC — Attorney General Janet Reno has finally agreed to release Dr. Mazen Al-Najjar following a ruling by an Immigration Judge last week that he should be freed on $8,000 bail. Najjar, a stateless Palestinian and former professor at the University of South Florida, has been held for over three years without charge and on the basis of “evidence” withheld from him, his attorneys and the public. Reno confirmed to Rep. David Bonior (D-Mich), one of the leading defenders of due process rights in Congress, that she would no longer block Najjar’s bail and that he would be released today. Najjar had been one of the few people still jailed due to secret evidence.
Last week, the government released Dr. Anwar Haddam, who had just started his fifth year of secret evidence incarceration, after he was granted political asylum by the Board of Immigration Appeals.
The actions of the Justice Department in releasing Haddam and Najjar come in the context of burgeoning support in both houses of Congress for legislation abolishing the use of secret evidence, which seems very likely to be become law. Both the Gore and Bush campaigns endorsed this legislation. It has been years since the government prevailed in any major ruling on secret evidence or specific secret evidence cases, and at least 5 district court judges have ruled that it violates Fifth Amendment rights to due process. A broad coalition of groups in the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom, including ADC, have led the fight against secret evidence, with the support of other organizations including the ACLU. In Congress, the struggle to repeal secret evidence has been led by Reps. Bonior and Tom Campbell (R-CA). Hala Maksoud, President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the nation’s largest Arab-American membership organization, said “we are delighted and relived that Mazen Al-Najjar is finally free after so many years of unjust detention. Secret evidence should never be the basis for putting anyone in jail. We urge all members of Congress to support the pending legislation that would abolish secret evidence use once and for all, and we urge the next Attorney General to uphold President-elect Bush’s campaign promise not to use secret evidence.