This article was created in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
WASHINGTON – A federal judge in Rochester, New York, Monday dismissed the Trump administration’s efforts to indefinitely detain a stateless Palestinian under the Patriot Act after he was sentenced to 15 years in prison in the 1990s for supporting Islamic militants .
The US District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford gave the Immigration and Customs Service until Thursday to free Adham A. Hassoun, 58, from Buffalo Federal Detention Center in Batavia, New York. She ordered a six-month release under the supervision of his sister’s house with an ankle monitor and other restrictions, including non-connection with known terrorists or extremists.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which had taken part in the legal challenge of Mr. Hassoun’s continued detention, announced the decision to reject him a right of executive power won after the September 11 attacks. The government tried to rely on an unprecedented rule of the Patriot Act to declare Mr. Hassoun a “national security threat” and to hold him indefinitely in a migrant detention center after his sentence ended.
in the their 43-page decisionJudge Wolford said the government had not proven that Mr. Hassoun would pose a threat in the future.
Mr. Hassoun was Sentenced in 2007 for material support to terrorism as a co-defendant of Jose Padilla, an American citizen who was convicted in a conspiracy to help Islamic jihadists abroad. With pre-trial detention and a two-year hiatus for good behavior, he ended his sentence in 2017 and was deported.
However, the government found no place to send Mr. Hassoun, who was born a stateless Palestinian to Lebanon and has lived in the United States for three decades after living in Florida before his sentence.
The Trump administration therefore relied on the administrative agency after 9/11 and declared it a national security risk, intended for indefinite detention in an immigration prison, with no plans or targets for deportation.
A team of civil liberties, immigration, and public interest lawyers challenged his detention through a Habeas Corpus petition asking Judge Wolford to review the government’s powers to indefinitely detain a migrant under the Patriot Act.
Department of Justice lawyers first attempted to argue that Mr. Hassoun was a hazard – and ultimately called for government authority to rely on the Patriot Act clause – by testifying from a prison informant reporting reports of interviews with Mr. Hassoun.
When the case was brought to trial, the informant’s accounts were discredited and the Department of Justice lawyers withdrew them. This left the judge with no evidence of whether he was a danger.
By ordering Mr. Hassoun’s release, Judge Wolford denied the government’s power to hold him indefinitely “based on the testimony of the executive”. The judge said the case showed that the government’s position “cannot stand a constitutional review”.
Mr. Hassoun’s lawyer, Jonathan Hafetz, a senior lawyer at A.C.L.U.said the case illustrated the potential dangers of the Patriot Act.
Mr. Hassoun, a former computer programmer, was named F.B.I. after the September 11 attacks. and the immigration authorities were looking for Muslims with sympathy for jihadist purposes. He had supported militant Muslims who were involved in conflicts in places like Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya.
“If there had been no judge and no fair trial, he would have been in prison for the rest of his life because of lies,” said Hafetz. “In America, we don’t punish people twice for the same crime. The government tried.”
In the short term, Mr. Hassoun will come to his sister in Florida, where he has another family, said Mr. Hafetz. It is up to the Department of Justice to decide whether and how to appeal the decision, with the US District Court of District Court being a possible jurisdiction.
The courts have confirmed the President’s power to detain indefinite detainees, including members of the Qaida and Taliban, or personnel captured abroad as prisoners of war in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. In Mr. Hassoun’s case, however, there are two main differences.
He was first arrested and tried, sentenced and sentenced to prison in the United States before the government tried to indefinitely detain him in a U.S. detention center.
Guantánamo prisoners are also entitled to challenge the basis of their administrative detention before a federal court through Habeas Corpus. The Trump administration argued that the power to detain Mr. Hassoun indefinitely was strictly regulatory.