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Muslim Should Be Deported, Board Rules

Attorneys for a Buena Park man who was accused, but never charged, of having ties to terrorism will appeal to a higher court.

April 12, 2006|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

An appeals board said a Buena Park man accused of having ties to terrorism but never charged should be deported to Jordan, overturning a judge who blocked his deportation on grounds that he would be tortured.

The nine-page ruling by the Board of Immigration Appeals was a double victory for the government in its nearly two-year battle to deport Abdel-Jabbar Hamdan, father of six U.S.-born children. While the panel granted the government's appeal to overturn the deportation ban, it also denied Hamdan's appeal for asylum.

The opinion, dated April 7 but released Tuesday, does not mean Hamdan will be leaving the country soon. His attorneys said they would appeal the ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is reviewing a separate petition for Hamdan's release. He has been jailed 21 months.

A magistrate last month said Hamdan's "indefinite detention" violated a 2001 Supreme Court ruling and recommended his release.

Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said government lawyers didn't know what effect the ruling would have on the petition. Hamdan's lawyer, Stacey Tolchin, said she didn't expect it to make a difference.

Hamdan, 45, was arrested in July 2004 and charged with overstaying the student visa he was issued 27 years ago. After his graduation from USC, he worked from 1990 to 2001 as a fundraiser for the Holy Land Foundation, an Islamic charity that U.S. officials said had ties to the Palestinian group Hamas, declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.

The government closed the Texas-based charity in December 2001. Hamdan and three charity officials were arrested about three years later. The charity's president, chairman and director of endowments were charged with terrorism-related crimes.

They were ordered released on their own recognizance by a federal judge, who said the government had failed to prove they were a danger to the community and were flight risks. They are awaiting trial.

Hamdan was accused of having ties to terrorism but not charged. Instead, he was convicted of violating immigration law and ordered deported.

But his deportation to Jordan was blocked by an immigration judge who found he would be at risk of torture because of his alleged ties to Hamas. He has remained jailed while the government appeals the ruling.

Although Hamdan has denied knowing that any money he raised went to Hamas, the appeals board said he should have known that the Holy Land Foundation was funding terrorists.

The government's evidence showed that the foundation's "leaders were actively involved in meetings with terrorist leaders of Hamas," and the group also helped fund "Hamas-controlled charitable organizations and [provided] support to the orphans and families of Hamas martyrs and prisoners," according to the opinion.

In a previous interview, Hamdan said the money he raised was to meant to fund Palestinian schools and hospitals and to help poor families.

"What has happened here is that the government just doesn't like his politics," Tolchin said.

"That's why they're trying to deport him. They never presented evidence that he supported terrorist activity or Hamas."

"We are gratified by the decision," Kice said.

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