ACLU Says Release of Adham Hassoun Confirms US Government Lacks Power to ‘Lock Someone Up Without Due Process’

“The government’s claim that it could imprison Mr. Hassoun indefinitely without any court looking into the facts is both deeply authoritarian and fundamentally unconstitutional.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-22-2020

The Trump administration attempted to employ a never-before-used provision of the USA PATRIOT Act to indefinitely detain Adham Hassoun, who has been released to an undisclosed country. (Photo: mlliu/flickr/cc)

The ACLU announced on Wednesday that the legal group’s client Adham Hassoun was released to an undisclosed country under a confidential court agreement after being detained by the Trump administration for over 17 months without charge or trial under a never-before-used provision of the USA PATRIOT Act.

“Mr. Hassoun was the first person to be unlawfully detained under the PATRIOT Act. This court victory makes clear he should be the last,” ACLU senior staff attorney Jonathan Hafetz said in a statement.

“Our client’s freedom is a victory for the rule of law, and reaffirms that the government does not have unreviewable powers to lock someone up without due process,” said Hafetz. “But this entire case has been a travesty, as well as an abuse of a power that the government never should have had in the first place.”

“That the government was able to hold Mr. Hassoun for over 17 months without charge or trial, on the basis of false allegations that the government itself refused to defend in court,” he added, “is chilling.”

Late last month, in response to a challenge filed by the ACLU, the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, and the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center, Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford of the Western District of New York had ordered the U.S. government to release Hassoun, a Palestinian born in Lebanon who moved to the United States in 1989.

The Trump administration had tried to indefinitely detain Hassoun—claiming without evidence that he is a threat to national security—since he was transferred to immigration custody in 2017 after completing a 15-year sentence for providing material support to terrorist activities. Hassoun’s sentence, which his attorneys have said was based on questionable allegations, followed years of FBI surveillance.

The government asked two appellate courts to keep Hassoun locked up following Wolford’s order, but those requests “are now moot due to Hassoun’s release to a foreign country,” according to the ACLU. “However, Hassoun’s motion for sanctions against the government for hiding and destroying evidence of his innocence remains pending before the district court.”

Jonathan Manes of the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law said Wednesday that “Mr. Hassoun has finally regained his freedom years after completing his criminal sentence, but every day of his detention under the PATRIOT Act has been an injustice.”

“Mr. Hassoun was detained for 17 months based on lies from jailhouse informants desperate to avoid deportation,” Manes continued. “The government’s claim that it could imprison Mr. Hassoun indefinitely without any court looking into the facts is both deeply authoritarian and fundamentally unconstitutional.”

“This case,” he declared, “shows exactly why the government cannot have the power to lock people up unilaterally, without a fair trial, in the name of national security.”

Nicole Hallett, one of Hassoun’s attorneys and director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, concurred.

“Mr. Hassoun’s case,” she said, “shows precisely why the government should not have the authority to indefinitely detain anyone without robust judicial review.”

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