Judge Rejects U.S. Effort to Hold Palestinian Man After Prison Term


This article was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

WASHINGTON — A federal choose in Rochester, N.Y., on Monday rejected a Trump administration effort to use the Patriot Act to indefinitely detain a stateless Palestinian man after he accomplished a 15-year jail sentence for sending help to Islamic militants within the 1990s.

United States District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford gave the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service till Thursday to free the person, Adham A. Hassoun, 58, from the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, N.Y. She ordered six months of supervised launch on the dwelling of his sister, with an ankle monitor and different restrictions, together with not associating with recognized terrorists or extremists.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which took half within the court docket problem to Mr. Hassoun’s continued imprisonment, declared the choice a rebuff of a claim of executive authority gained after the Sept. 11 assaults. The authorities sought to invoke a never-before-used administrative provision of the Patriot Act to declare Mr. Hassoun a “danger to national security” and maintain him indefinitely in a migrant detention heart upon completion of his jail sentence.

In her 43-page decision, Judge Wolford stated the federal government failed to show that Mr. Hassoun could be a hazard sooner or later.

Mr. Hassoun was convicted of providing material support for terrorism in 2007 as a co-defendant of Jose Padilla, an American citizen convicted in a conspiracy to assist Islamic jihadists overseas. With pretrial detention and two years off for good habits, he accomplished his sentence in 2017 and was designated for deportation.

But the federal government discovered no place to ship Mr. Hassoun, who was born in Lebanon as a stateless Palestinian, and has lived within the United States for 3 a long time, having resided in Florida earlier than his jail time period.

So the Trump administration invoked post-9/11 administrative authority and declared him a nationwide safety danger destined for indefinite detention in an immigration jail, with no plans or vacation spot for deportation.

A group of civil liberties, immigrants rights and public curiosity attorneys challenged his detention via a habeas corpus petition that requested Judge Wolford to evaluate the authority of the federal government to indefinitely detain a migrant beneath the Patriot Act.

Justice Department attorneys initially sought to argue that Mr. Hassoun was a hazard — and in the end declare the federal government’s authority to invoke the clause within the Patriot Act — via the testimony of a jailhouse informant who provided accounts of conversations he had with Mr. Hassoun.

But because the case was headed to trial, the informant’s accounts had been discredited and Justice Department attorneys withdrew them. That left the choose with no proof on the query of whether or not he posed a hazard.

In ordering Mr. Hassoun’s launch, Judge Wolford rejected the authority of the federal government to detain him indefinitely “based on the executive branch’s say-so.” The choose stated the case demonstrated that the federal government’s place “cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.”

Mr. Hassoun’s lawyer, Jonathan Hafetz, a senior staff attorney at the A.C.L.U., stated the case illustrated the potential risks of the Patriot Act.

Mr. Hassoun, a former pc programmer, was swept up in federal raids after the Sept. 11 assaults because the F.B.I. and immigration authorities appeared for Muslims with sympathies for jihadist causes. He had despatched help to Muslims militants embroiled in conflicts in locations like Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya.

“If there hadn’t been a judge and a fair process, he would have been kept in prison for the rest of his life based on lies,” Mr. Hafetz stated. “In America, we don’t punish people twice for the same crime. That’s what the government tried to do.”

In the brief time period, Mr. Hassoun will be a part of his sister in Florida, the place he has different household, Mr. Hafetz stated. It can be up to the Justice Department to determine whether or not and the way to attraction the choice, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit being one attainable venue.

Courts have upheld presidential authority to indefinitely detain suspected Qaeda and Taliban members or associates captured overseas as conflict prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, however there are two key distinctions within the case of Mr. Hassoun.

First, he was arrested within the United States, and tried, convicted and served his sentence earlier than the administration sought to maintain him indefinitely in a U.S. detention heart.

Also, Guantánamo prisoners are entitled to problem the idea of their administrative detention in federal court docket via habeas corpus. The Trump administration argued the authority to maintain Mr. Hassoun indefinitely was strictly a regulatory one.

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