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Charity Chief Seeks Asylum

October 24, 2002|From Associated Press

DETROIT — The detained co-founder of an Islamic charity pleaded for political asylum Wednesday, saying he would be a target of both sides in the war on terrorism if he were deported to Lebanon.

Rabih Haddad testified that Al Qaeda supporters could persecute him for his vocal opposition to the terrorist group and last year's terrorist attacks. He said he also feared action by the Lebanese government because of U.S. allegations linking him with terrorist activities.

Lebanon is "very eager to show the U.S. that they are one in the war against terrorism," Haddad said at an asylum hearing before Immigration Judge Robert Newberry. "There's no telling what they could do."

Haddad, who has been jailed since Dec. 14 on a visa violation, denies that he or his organization, Global Relief Foundation, have links to terrorism. The Bush administration has said it suspects Global Relief of having such ties, but no criminal charges have been filed against Haddad or the foundation.

A resident of Ann Arbor, Mich., Haddad, 41, is seeking asylum for himself and his family. The government also is trying to deport his wife, Salma Rushaid, and three of their four children. Arguing against asylum, Immigration and Naturalization Service attorney Marsha Nettles said the court heard no evidence to prove that anyone in Lebanon would attempt to harm Haddad if he were deported. Nettles said Haddad has traveled to Lebanon and has lived there for extended periods since the mid-1980s. She said he never was persecuted for his views.

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