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Committee to Free Rabih Haddad Rallies In Michigan

The Associated Press State & Local Wire
December 13, 2002, Friday, 12:40 PM Eastern Time
Group to hold rally for jailed charity co-founder
By ALEXANDRA R. MOSES, Associated Press Writer
A year ago, Rabih Haddad was known mainly to members of the local Muslim community and the people with whom he worked as part of the charity he helped found.

Now he is the focus of international attention.

Federal authorities accuse his charity of funneling money to al-Qaida, legal challenges have been made over secret court hearings and the local Muslim community is in an uproar, making Haddad's case much more than an immigration issue.

"No one ... could have imagined or believed it would be this long," said Haddad's wife, Salma Al-Rushaid.

On Saturday - one year after Haddad was arrested on a visa violation - members of the group The Free Rabih Haddad Committee planned a rally in Ann Arbor to mark the anniversary.

"We just want to make sure that people don't forget that Rabih is sitting there," said Kristine Abouzahr, one of the members of the group.

Haddad was arrested Dec. 14, 2001, the same day the suburban Chicago offices of the Global Relief Foundation were raided. Haddad is the co-founder of the charity.

Late last month, an immigration judge denied political asylum for Haddad, his wife and three of their children, and ordered them removed from the United States. All are accused of overstaying their visas, though only Haddad is jailed.

Al-Rushaid said her husband is surviving, but she worries about his physical health. Because he is in solitary confinement at the Monroe County Jail, he rarely gets exercise and the cell has poor ventilation, she said.

"He does not see the sun. He does not get fresh air. ... He's yellow," she said.

She said he only goes outside his cell for one hour a day, for showers and phone calls.

"Emotionally, he's good. His faith keeps him up," she said. But, she said, "I wonder how long, how long can a person endure."

Haddad's early hearings were closed to the public, sparking lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union, several newspapers and U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., who argued that the proceedings must be open.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court agreed in an August ruling, though some parts of subsequent hearings were closed.

In its argument, the government said opening the hearings could allow terrorists to gain information that could threaten U.S. security.

Neither Haddad nor Global Relief has been charged with a terror-related crime, and they've denied any links. Haddad has said the group is strictly a humanitarian organization.

But the federal government says Global Relief has received substantial funding from a suspected financier of al-Qaida's worldwide efforts. Federal officials also allege the charity had contact with Osama bin Laden's former personal secretary.

Haddad, 42, an Ann Arbor resident and Lebanese citizen, last month was ordered returned to Lebanon. His wife and three children were ordered deported to Kuwait, where she is from, or Lebanon. The couple's fourth child was born in the United States.

Haddad argued that he will be persecuted if he returns to Lebanon. The judge, in denying the asylum, said Haddad is a danger to the United States.

Al-Rushaid and Haddad's supporters say what angers them most is that Haddad is not charged with anything more than a visa violation.

"They're portraying him as so dangerous. ... What has he done?" Al-Rushaid said.

The next step for the family is an appeal, which Haddad's attorney says he plans to file soon. If they don't appeal, then deportation proceedings will begin.

Attorney Ashraf Nubani said the appeal will put off deportation for several months.



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