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"Rabih Haddad is an innocent man"

May 24, 2002 | Pages 6 and 7

RABIH HADDAD has spent more five months behind bars as a victim of John Ashcroft's witch-hunt. The government detained the Muslim cleric from Ann Arbor, Mich., because of allegations that the Islamic charity he worked for, Global Relief Foundation (GRF), funded Islamic terrorists overseas.

They haven't released any real evidence linking Haddad or the GRF to terrorists. The best they could come up with is pictures from the GRF's offices in Bosnia that show radios "of the kind often used by terrorists."

The government hasn't filed a single charge against Haddad related to "terrorism" or September 11. Yet they continue to terrorize Rabih Haddad and his family--refusing to release Rabih, and threatening to deport Rabih's wife and three of their four children to Lebanon.

Rabih's brother MAZEN HADDAD talked to Socialist Worker about his brother's case and the fight to free him.

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WHAT HAS the impact of Rabih's incarceration been on his family?

IT'S VERY inhumane what the government has done so far. They've been exerting a lot of pressure on Rabih. And some of that pressure includes using his family as "bait."

This includes the isolation of Rabih in solitary confinement, moving him around, denying him access to his family, not letting them hear from him regularly in the beginning, then threatening to deport them while he's been in custody.

It's a dirty game that's been played, and the effects on Rabih's family have been enormous. The fact that Rabih is so far away from them is difficult. Right now, it's much better, but for three months, they couldn't even speak with their dad, because he was only allowed 15 minutes a month on the telephone.

That's had a huge psychological impact on the kids. Even though only one of the children was born in the U.S., I believe all of them feel that they belong in the U.S. They feel just like any other kid that was born or raised in the U.S. They feel that their country--if I can call it that--has let them down.

When the government says "war on terrorism," in my opinion, that's an oxymoron, because war is a form a terror. They're using exactly the same tactics--not only against the people of Afghanistan, but even internally against the detainees that they're holding captive.

There have been a lot of victims because of September 11. But those victims are not just those who died or the family members of those who perished on September 11. The government has extended the victims to the 1,200 detainees that they've locked up, month in and month out, with hardly any access to their families or even to lawyers.

WHY DO you think that Rabih and the GRF became targets?

I THINK the government is targeting the organizations that may possibly be competing with the U.S. as far as giving humanitarian aid is concerned. In deprived countries or in communities where help is greatly needed, it's the people and organizations who give that help who tend to have a greater influence on that community.

I believe that the U.S. agenda in Afghanistan is to be the only provider for the people--and therefore to kind of have their opinions and their freedoms sort of hijacked to serve the purposes of the U.S. interests in Afghanistan.

Global Relief Foundation is one of the very, very few organizations that was even allowed in Afghanistan. I think the target is to eliminate the aid that those organizations were giving to Afghanistan, so that the U.S., with its propaganda, can emerge to be the only provider.

A JUDGE recently ruled that the immigration hearings for Rabih and his family should be open. Why did he make that decision?

THE JUDGE basically realized that there was no reason whatsoever to have those hearings closed.

The [government's] argument was that "national security" was involved. That was bogus. Their claim that it was for "his own protection" was bogus, because Rabih was one of the plaintiffs asking to open those hearings. And the argument that it was against the restrictions approved by Congress was also bogus, because one of the plaintiffs was a member of the Judiciary Committee in the Congress.

No judge, federal or otherwise, would be able to rule against us with a clear conscience. It's been more than five months since my brother was incarcerated, and I think that people, including judges, have realized what is going on and why this is happening.

The fact remains that Rabih Haddad is innocent of any charges--even charges that haven't been filed against him.

RABIH WAS finally moved out of solitary confinement in March. Do you think this was because of the demonstrations and pressure that activists have been putting on the government to release him?

RABIH CERTAINLY feels that it was a result of that. In his letter that was read at a rally in March, he said, "You guys must be doing something right. Keep doing it."

Whether that support is coming from folks attending rallies, or people who are phoning and exerting pressure, or whether it's through the help of congressional representatives, all these efforts are coming to fruition.

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