The Amer Jubran Defense Committee
Amer Jubran, 2001
The Amer Jubran Defense Committee was formed in response to the illegal arrest and detention on November 4, 2002 of Amer Jubran, a Palestinian human rights activist in Boston, Massachusetts. A year later, November 6, 2003, the final hearing took place in the government's deportation case against Amer Jubran. In this hearing, Amer, faced with the breakdown of even a minimal appearance of due process in the proceedings against him, requested 'voluntary departure.' He left the United States for Jordan on January 4, 2004.
Those of us who knew and worked with Amer as activists during his time in the US recognize that his departure is an irreplaceable loss to the activist community. We on the Amer Jubran Defense Committee dedicated ourselves to fighting this deportation on principle--as a fight for freedom of speech and other civil liberties, as a fight against racism and the targeting of Arab and Muslim immigrants, and as a fight against the introduction of discriminatory policies and procedures under the Department of Homeland Security that threaten all of us as precedent. We recognized that the clarity of Amer's voice was crucial for helping to establish an important political current in the struggle for justice in Palestine. We nevertheless believe that his decision to take voluntary departure was the best and most principled decision he could have made. We continue to express our outrage at the circumstances of injustice that have made it necessary.
On the morning of November 4, 2002, well-known Palestinian rights activist Amer Jubran was arrested by agents of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at his home in Cumberland, Rhode Island. Only two days earlier, Amer had helped to lead a march for Palestinian rights in Bostonthe first demonstration organized by the New England Committee to Defend Palestine, a group which he had helped to create. The details of his arrest make it clear that he was the object of political targeting:
•The arrest was a joint operation carried out by agents of the FBI and the INS.
•The FBI attempted to question Amer about his legitimate political activities and explicitly threatened him with indefinite INS detention if he refused to "cooperate."
•The arrest took place only after Amer insisted on his right to have a lawyer present for this attempted interrogation.
The INS proceeded to hold Amer for 17 days at the Adult Correctional Institution in Cranston, Rhode Island, without bail. They informed his lawyer that they intended to hold him "indefinitely," but refused to cite any charges or infractions of INS regulations that would warrant such detention. After a concerted international campaign of public pressure, the INS finally agreed to hold a bond hearing. Amer was released on minimum bond on November 21st.
Complaint Against the INS
On January 30, 2003, Amer filed a complaint with INS Office of Internal Audit and on February 5, sent a supporting letter to the Regional Director, Stephen Farquharson, and to the National Commissioner, Michael Garcia. His complaint alleges substantial violations of 1st, 4th and 5th Amendment rights on the part of at least one named INS agent during his arrest and detention. Repeated calls to the INS to ask for a response to this complaint resulted only in bureaucratic shuffling from one office to another. There is to date no evidence that an investigation has taken place.
At the time of the bond hearing, the government made clear its intention to seek deportation based on false claims that Amer's permanent residency status --granted three years earlier-- had been fraudulently obtained. At the pre-trial hearing on February 27, 2003, the immigration judge, Leonard Shapiro, expressed surprise at the lack of evidence and witnesses supporting government claims. The INS nevertheless affirmed its intention to proceed with the deportation order. These proceedings continued under the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE) of the Department of Homeland Security.
Government abuses of police power continued through the course of these proceedings. In the week leading up to the 'final removal hearing' scheduled for July 24, federal agents visited members of Amer's witness pool--his ex-wife and members of her family--and interrogated them in an intimidating manner. The government prosecutor, Richard Neville, consistently failed to meet minimum standards for the fair disclosure of evidence or witness submissions. Although all witness and exhibit lists should have been submitted a full month before trial, the judge nevertheless accepted the government's submissions in court, on the day of the trial itself, including a report from an FBI agent concerning his interrogation of Amer's ex-wife in November of 2002.At the July 24th trial, Amer's primary witness, his ex-wife, gave strong testimony on his behalf, and withstood more than two hours of irrelevant cross-examination at the hands of the government prosecutor. The cross-examination included questions about Amer's political activities and the content of political conversations--matters entirely outside the substance of government allegations. His ex-wife also testified that FBI agents had told her that Amer was a terrorist who had been involved in the events of September 11th.
Although the judge expressed his willingness to rule on July 24, the case was continued at Neville's last minute request and a second date was set for September 25. At the end of August, Neville requested a second continuance claiming he had "pre-existing" plans to take a weekend driving trip to Indiana where he had "pre-paid tickets" for an event. The judge granted this continuance despite concerns expressed by Amer's lawyer that the postponement would introduce a significant delay between the testimony of the primary witness and the conclusion of the trial and would prolong the proceedings to more than a year. Neville was in fact present in his office, not in Indiana, on the morning of September 25.
This pattern of prolonging legal proceedings through continuances is itself a form of harassment and a denial of the due process right to a fair and expeditious trial. In light of the witness intimidation and deliberate lying practiced by federal agents in the final week before the July 24 trial, further continuances also provoked suspicion that the prosecutor was delaying in the hope of obtaining false, incriminating testimony through illegitimate means. This was in fact the case.
Deportation Proceedings A Pretext For An Illegitimate Investigation
When FBI and INS agents forced their way into Amer's home November 4, they tried to question him about his legal political activities and then threatened him with "indefinite detention" if he refused to "cooperate." Amer took a principled stand: he insisted on his right to counsel, and refused to speak without his lawyer present. For this refusal to waive his rights the INS jailed him, initially without charges, and later when public outcry made it difficult to continue holding him-- initiated deportation proceedings against him. The entire history of those proceedings is a catalogue of abuses of police power and judicial authority. Initial charges were clearly invented at the last minute in order to suit the sudden need for some kind of pretext for the arrest. These charges were later changed as it became clear that they would not satisfy the judge's need to present the public with at least an appearance of sufficient cause. The government prosecutor failed to submit evidence or witnesses for its newly invented case of marriage fraud, and defied (without penalty) even the minimum standards of fair disclosure under court rules.
Instead, FBI and INS agents tried to intimidate Amer's witness pool, and the government relied on this strategy until the date of the trial. When it became clear that Amer's main witness would testify, the government prosecutor spent three hours examining her on matters irrelevant to the case, and then asked for a last minute continuance. When the government prosecutor finally handed Amer's lawyer his submissions for witnesses and evidence one week before the November 6th trial, it became evident what he had been doing during the two continuances he had requested. He had in fact been conducting an ongoing, secret investigation based on the testimony of Amer's witness. During the proceedings the prosecutor had repeatedly asked questions concerning matters not directly involved in the case; Amer's lawyer objected, but the judge overruled him with such words as, "I don't see the relevance either, but I'll allow the government broad latitude." Every line of illegitimate questioning opened in the proceedings became grounds to investigate people not directly involved in the case, but whose own status made them vulnerable to government harassment. As many as twelve police agents were involved in the investigation.
Looking at these documents and recognizing that the government was using the deportation proceedings to continue the fishing expedition it had begun at the time of his arrest, Amer made it clear to his lawyer that he had no intention of taking the stand and giving testimony that the government might then use against other people who were vulnerable. When his lawyer insisted that he would still want to question Amer on the stand ("Do you want to win your case, or do you want to protect other people?") Amer asked him to seek a continuance in order to consider other strategies. Amer was adamant in his refusal to cooperate with the government's use of the immigration proceedings against him as a means of widening the net of its harassment and repression of immigrants.
November 6th trial. Judge abandons all appearance of 'due process.'
On the day before the trial, Amer received word that the judge had denied the continuance (after granting two prior continuances to the government prosecutor on grounds that were trivial, personal, and now clearly false). He also learned that his lawyer had made a deal with the judge and prosecutor that would have required Amer to take the stand on November 6th, and had then given the prosecutor another three or four months for a follow-up investigation. His lawyer had made this arrangement without consulting Amer, in direct violation of an agreement that he would make no such arrangements without Amer's consent.
On November 6th, Amer reiterated his request for a continuance; the judge again denied his request. Amer then made it clear that he did not have faith in his counsel and requested time to seek new counsel. The judge insisted that if he fired his counsel he would have to take the stand without counsel, and if need be he, the judge would conduct direct questioning. Amer insisted that he lacked the expertise to represent himself. The judge insisted that the trial go forward that day whether Amer had counsel or not. It was under these circumstances that Amer then told the judge, "If there is no justice for me here in the United States, I will take voluntary departure."
It had been revealed in rapid succession that none of the ordinary protections applied to him: his own counsel was no longer acting in his interests, but making deals with his adversary; the judge had abandoned even the appearance of a commitment to due process. It was also clear that the judge had facilitated the government strategy at every stage -- permitting illegitimate questions of Amer's witness, accepting government evidence and witnesses beyond a reasonable deadline, and permitting the government to prolong its investigation through two long continuances based on false pretexts. As soon as Amer asked for voluntary departure, the judge began to plead with him to testify and to continue with the proceedings. He remarked that Amer had been "ahead in points" when the first part of the trial had concluded, and that the latest government submissions of evidence had done nothing to weaken his case. He tried to persuade Amer that he was likely to win his case if he would only proceed with it. The judge's statements must be seen as further complicity with the government’s strategy, in keeping with his failure to bring the matter to a timely conclusion at the end of the last hearing, and now his denial of due process. The outcome of the purported immigration trial had become immaterial; the court was now facilitating an investigation with no legitimate legal goal and with no apparent end.
As many who know Amer are aware, his legal battle has never been about staying in the United States. It has been about exposing this "routine immigration proceeding" for what it has been all along: an attempt by the US government to silence voices for Palestine and dissent against the various wars of our government, waged both openly and silently, in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine. On November 6th, Amer refused to participate further in the injustice for which his case was being used. We fully support Amer's decision to put an end to these illegitimate proceedings. We nevertheless believe that government violations of fundamental rights committed in his arrest and detention, in police surveillance of his political activities over the last two years, and in the course of his year-long immigration trial, demand redress. We intend to pursue justice through other legal venues.
On Thursday, July 17, Amer's lawyer, Nelson Brill, delivered a letter to the judge, alerting him to FBI attempts to intimidate members of Amer's witness pool:
"...I am compelled to write to Your Honor today to inform this Court of recent circumstances which I believe have caused serious harm, and potentially raise prejudicial issues, in regards to my ability to present my planned witnesses.
Yesterday, I had a very disturbing telephone conversation with my primary witness, Ms. (...), [the former spouse of Mr. Jubran], who has filed an Affidavit in support of her bona fide marriage to the Respondent and who is the primary witness that I plan to present at our hearing on July 24th. In a visibly shaken voice, [she]informed me that on this past Monday, July 14th, her sister, (...), [a United States citizen] was taken from her home in Rhode Island in the early morning hours by a group of officers from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI and held for over nine hours at the Department of Homeland Security’s office located in Providence, Rhode Island. According to both [Respondent's former spouse] and the Respondent (who himself received a phone call from [the former spouse's sister] upon her release that same evening), she was interrogated regarding the Respondent, her knowledge of his former marriage to her sister, [...], and what kinds of testimony she could or would give on July 24th. As a direct result of her lengthy detention and interrogation, [she] has informed both her sister, [...], and her former brother-in-law, the Respondent, that she fears for her safety and that of her family; that she does not want anyone (including her own sister) to contact her; that she is unwilling to come forward to be a witness in this case and that she will replace her telephone number with an unlisted number (which she had done so as of Tuesday, July 15th, when I tried to contact her and was informed the number has been unlisted). For these reasons, I cannot now communicate with [her]and thus cannot find out any of the facts of what happened to her while detained on July 14th, nor why she will not appear as a potential witness in this case.
In our telephone conversation, [the Respondent's former spouse] also informed me that a group of officers came to her own apartment in South Carolina on this same day, Monday, July 14th, but that she did not answer the door to her home and that they left shortly thereafter. This is not the first time this has occurred, as[she] has been the subject of several unsolicited telephone and in-person interviews with both Department of Homeland Security and FBI officers in South Carolina since Respondent was arrested on the instant Notice To Appear in November, 2002. In these interviews, [she] informed me that she has repeatedly been questioned about the bona fides of her former marriage to the Respondent and has consistently reiterated the true nature of their marriage in these unsolicited interrogations of her.
In light of last Monday’s detention of her sister, [she] has now expressed to me her deepest reservations oncoming to Boston and appearing to testify before this Court. She expresses fears for the safety of her children, for herself and regrets the harm caused to her family and her own relations to her family members as a direct result of the government’s continuing interrogations of her and her family members. Given her fear and level of anxiety at this point, I honestly do not know whether my primary witness, [the Respondent's former spouse], will actually appear in person on July 24th, although I have tried to convince her to appear and give her testimony. " I realize that Your Honor must take no position in this regard, but I must express for the record my deepest professional concerns with the conduct of the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and any other agency that may have been involved in the unconsented and unsolicited interrogations and detentions of potential witnesses to this trial. I believe such interrogations are only harmful to the full and fair presentation of evidence in this case."
What can we do?
In an article on Amer's trial written for the New York Sun, columnist Josh Gerstein quotes a Boston pro-Israel activist responding to the news of Amer's voluntary departure with the words, "I'm excited to hear that he's not going to be around any more." Amer has been jailed, held on bond, and targeted for deportation in order to silence his voice and his politics. This silencing is part of a sustained attack on a political community. It's up to us to demonstrate that those who are now gloating over Amer's departure have no cause to do so. We invite all those who are angry that this case has ended with Amer's departure to affirm a commitment to the principles he fought to establish:
• A single democratic Palestine in all of historic Palestine
• The right of the Palestinian people to resist colonization and reclaim their land
• An end to all US aid to Israel: military, economic, and political
Amer's formal complaint to the INS can be found here.
Earlier Arrest in Brookline
This was not the first time that Amer was targeted as a pro-Palestinian activist. In June of 2001, he was arrested in Brookline, Massachusetts when police broke up a peaceful and permitted rally protesting the Israel Day of Celebration. Carried off in hand and leg shackles and held overnight in jail without charges, he learned that he had been accused of "assault with a deadly weapon" an Israel Day celebrant, who had been observed attacking the pro-Palestine rally, claimed that Amer had kicked him. After a prolonged court battle, the charge was found to be groundless and was dismissed.
During the period of this trial it came out that the police had been working closely with the Israel Day Celebration organizers and were in their pay. Both the police and the prosecution had attempted to withhold exculpatory evidence from the defense attorney, including the testimony of a witness and a police video showing that the assault incident had not taken place.
Police Surveillance and FOIA
Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act after Amer's arrest in November of 2002 show a pattern of intrusive police surveillance and coordinated activity between local and federal police agencies beginning close to the time of the Brookline case. These documents include the following:
• Communications between the Brookline Police and the Israel Day Celebration organizersincluding the Israeli Consulate--concerning plans for the pro-Palestine rally
• A police video of the Brookline demonstration, with close-up “mug” shots focusing on Palestinians in the rally
• Still photographs of Amer, his friends, witnesses and supporters taken inside the courtroom during his Brookline trial, and sent to the Boston Police
• A fax cover sheet documenting the communication of records between the Brookline Police and the FBI in July, 2003
• More than twelve video tapes made by the Boston police of pro-Palestine, anti-war, and civil liberties/immigrant rights rallies, which all found their way into a file concerning Amer Jubran
• A memo from the FBI refusing to grant the FOIA petition on the grounds that the subject was "under investigation."
With Amer's latest arrest, this pattern of surveillance and intimidation has shown its true face. There in now an urgent need for citizens to unite with immigrants in opposing BICE abuses of police power. Now that the INS has been absorbed into the new Department of Homeland Security, a single, monolithic police institution is developing for citizens and non-citizens alike. Its institutional culture is a police-state culturecombining opaque bureaucracy, secrecy, and the authoritarian use of forcestandard procedure for a long time now in its dealings with immigrants.
This institutional culture will affect everyone who passes through it, and that means potentially all of us.
|The New England Committee to Defend Palestine, a group which Amer co-founded.|
|Boston A.N.S.W.E.R., another group which Amer was involved with, and which helped him defend against a different set of false accusations in Brookline in 2001, has its own summary here;|
|BLUE TRIANGLE NETWORK, P.O. BOX 7451, DEARBORN, MI 48121-7451
Phone: 313-942-7187 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Press Releases about the Case|
|Sample Letters to the INS|
|Background Information About the Case|
|Media Coverage of the Case|
|Legal Resources in New England|
|Literature:||General-Purpose "Defend Amer" Flyer with case and contact info (2 per page, double sided): Front Back|