Shortly after 9:30pm on July 31, after more than two years of detention, Muslim community leader Abdel Jabbar Hamdan walked out of the Terminal Island federal detention center in San Pedro, California, and returned to his Buena Park home with his wife and six US-born children.
Hamdan’s release came after a day of last-ditch legal efforts by the government to keep him detained. On July 27, and again on July 28 in response to a government challenge, US District Judge Terry J. Hatter, Jr. had ordered Hamdan released “forthwith.” But Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials claimed they could continue holding Hamdan because government lawyers in Washington planned to file an emergency request to block Hatter’s order. That request was filed late on July 31 with the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which quickly rejected it in a three-sentence ruling, upholding Hatter’s order and confirming that Hamdan should be released “forthwith.”
Earlier in the day, Hatter had ordered Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to release Hamdan by 5 PM on July 31 or appear in his Los Angeles courtroom at 11 AM on Aug. 1 “to show cause, if you have any, why you should not be held in contempt.” American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney Ranjana Natarajan said government lawyers assured her they plan no further appeals.
Hamdan is Palestinian; he was born in a refugee camp in the West Bank when it was under Jordanian control. He was arrested by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on July 28, 2004; earlier he had worked as a fundraiser for the Holy Land Foundation, an Islamic charity shut down by US officials in December 2001 for allegedly raising money for Hamas, a Palestinian organization the US has designated as terrorist. Hamdan was not charged with any crimes but was ordered deported for overstaying a student visa and was held by ICE without bond as an alleged national security threat.
In its July 31 brief, the government claimed that Hamdan’s release could have “adverse foreign policy ramifications” because it could create “the perception that the US cannot keep alien fundraisers detained pending removal.” Hamdan’s lawyers had anticipated the government’s move and filed a response before seeing its brief, noting that Holy Land Foundation officials charged with terrorism-related crimes were released on their own recognizance to await trial, and were not deemed dangers to national security.
In a statement, ICE said Hamdan would have to comply with an electronic monitoring program requiring him to be at home from 10 PM to 6 AM daily and stay within a 50-mile radius of his home. DHS and the Department of Justice “will continue the vigorous effort to remove” Hamdan from the US, the statement said. (Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, Aug. 1) On Aug. 1, Hamdan declined to answer whether he was wearing an electronic monitor and steered clear of making controversial statements on his attorney’s advice. (LAT, Aug. 2)
From Immigration News Briefs, Aug. 5
See our last post on the Hamdan case.