Several hundred Muslims rallied Friday in Santa Ana to demand the release of an Orange County man who they say is being unfairly held for violating immigration laws in an attempt by authorities to pressure him to testify against an indicted Islamic charity where he once worked.
Abdel-Jabbar Hamdan, 44, of Buena Park was arrested by federal agents Tuesday, the same day seven members of the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation were charged with funneling millions to Hamas, the Palestinian group that the U.S. government calls a terrorist organization.
Hamdan, a 24-year resident of the United States who is being held without bail, once worked as a paid fundraiser for the charity but was not named in the indictment.
Hamdan's lawyer, Ban Al-Wardi, said her client is accused of overstaying his student visa after 1986. But she said Hamdan has been living here with his wife and six children under a work permit, which was renewed in May. Hamdan is a Muslim born in a Palestinian refugee camp in the Middle East.
Al-Wardi said the arrest is a move by the government to pressure Hamdan to testify against the Holy Land Foundation. But a spokeswoman for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Hamdan was "in violation of immigration law" but would not discuss details.
At the Civic Center prayer vigil, Hamdan's wife, Entesar, spoke as her two youngest sons stood at her side.
"If my husband is unjustly deported, our family and our lives will be destroyed," she said. "I appeal to all people who support fairness and justice to help free my husband so he can come back to his children and family."
Al-Wardi said Hamdan's health was deteriorating while in custody. Hamdan suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure and was transferred to Terminal Island in San Pedro late Thursday because of its on-site medical staff.