With his wife at work and his three daughters still in bed, Mazen Al-Najjar walked out of his apartment Saturdaymorning to get quarters to do his laundry. Outside his apartment, INS agents were waiting to take him away.
Al-Najjar, a former University of South Florida teacher who was jailed for three and a half years on secret evidenceallegedly tying him to terrorism, was rearrested Saturday for overstaying his visa. Al-Najjar, a Palestinian, hasfought a long-running legal battle over the use of secret evidence in his immigration case.
His arrest was not based on new evidence or classified information, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
A written statement from the Justice Department said Mazen Al-Najjar was held to be deported for overstaying hisvisa, but the one-page press release also repeated the government’s longstanding assertion that Al-Najjar wasinvolved with terrorist groups.
“Al-Najjar also had established ties to terrorist organizations,” the statement said. “This case underscores theJustice Department’s commitment to address terrorism by using all legal authorities available.”
Over all, more than 1,200 people have been detained as part of the sweeping investigation, including men travelingthe country with large amounts of cash and box cutters, and those who sought information on crop-dusters and flyinglessons on large jets.
Al-Najjar’s supporters say the US government is using him as a guinea pig to test their powers to detain foreigners.
Democracy Now spoke to Sami Al-Arian, a Middle Eastern professor of computer science at University of South Floridaand the brother in law of Al-Najjar, last month. Al-Arian’s Palestinian nationalist views have long beencontroversial in the small community of Tampa where he lives and works. But after he appeared on the Fox news showThe O’Reilly Factor, where host Bill O’Reilly drew connections between him and terrorist groups, the university wasbarraged by hundreds of threatening letters and emails. After the interview, the university put Al-Arian on paidleave, pending an internal review of campus safety and an investigation of a telephone death threat he received.
- Sami Al-Arian, professor suspended from the University of South Florida and the brother-in-law of MazenAl-Najjar, who was detained this weekend.
- Ibrahim Hooper, spokesperson for Council on American Islamic Relations.
- Imad Hamad, Midwest regional director, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.