L.A.-based American-Islamic relations group asks for Sec. of State's help
Desert Sun wire services
A coalition of Muslim, interfaith and civil rights groups sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today asking that she help a Southland man locked up in the United Arab Emirates on suspicion of promoting terrorism.
Naji Hamdan, 42, lived in Southern California for more than two decades and has been a well-respected community leader, activist and father of three children, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations Greater Los Angeles Area Chapter.
According to the Washington Post, Hamdan lived in the Los Angeles area, where he had gone to school, owned a successful auto-parts business and become a U.S. citizen. But last July, he was summoned to the U.S. Embassy in the Dubai to answer questions from FBI agents who had come from Los Angeles, and six weeks later he was taken prisoner by UAE authorities.
The Post reported he had been monitored by the FBI since the 1980s, when he studied aviation engineering at Northrop-Rice University and with other Muslim students set aside a dorm room as a mosque. The mosque was later moved to downtown Hawthorne, where Hamdan often presided during Ramadan services.
He was approached by the FBI in December 1999 in connection with the ``millennium plot'' that targeted Los Angeles International Airport, and surveillance ramped up after 9/11, the Post reported. He was also audited twice by the IRS and routinely pulled aside for extra questioning at airports.
In August 2006, Hamdan and his family moved to Dubai. Friends told the Post he made the move not only because of the constant monitoring of his activities, but also because of drugs and gangs in Hawthorne schools.
In a sworn statement to a U.S. consular official in the UAE, Hamdan said he was kicked, made to sit in an electric chair with threats that he might be electrocuted, punched and slapped, blindfolded and beat with a large stick and coerced to sign a confession, which he did to stop the torture, according to CAIR.
Ahilan Arulanantham of the American Civil Liberties Union, who is representing Hamdan through his brother and wife, who now lives in Lebanon with their two children, told the Post, ``this is torture by proxy.'' He said the UAE had shown no interest in Hamdan before arresting him, and that he was tortured ``at the behest'' of the U.S. government.
In a statement, the FBI said it does not ask other governments to arrest people on its behalf, but in court papers it did not deny the involvement of any U.S. agency in Hamdan's detention, according to the Post.
``In terrorism matters, we routinely work with foreign counterparts,'' FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said in a statement.
The letter sent to Clinton stated, in part, ``Mr. Hamdan, like every other American, has the right to the protection of his government from human rights abuses inflicted by any group or state entity. We cannot stress enough the urgency of Mr. Hamdan's situation and request that the State Department take immediate steps to restore Mr. Hamdan's basic human rights without delay.''
The letter was signed by CAIR, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles, Muslim American Society's MAS Freedom, the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, Interfaith Communities United for Justice & Peace, the Islamic Center of Hawthorne, and Switzerland-based Alkarama (Dignity) for Human Rights.
"We are extremely concerned about the allegations of torture and lack of due process in Mr. Hamdan's case,'' said CAIR-LA staff attorney Ameena Qazi. "We are also concerned about possible U.S. government agency involvement in Mr. Hamdan's detention and his trial in UAE. We hope the new administration will make it an urgent priority to correct the many civil rights abuses against the Muslim community, which were a hallmark of the previous administration.''
- Hussam Ayloush
- Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html