Wednesday, November 07, 2007

[ePalestine] WP: Land of the Freed: For two members of the 'Los Angeles Eight,' America finally acts to right a wrong.

Dear friends,

For those of you old enough to remember this case of the LA8.

For more info:

Hats off to persistence,

Land of the Freed 
For two members of the 'Los Angeles Eight,' America finally acts to right a wrong. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2007; A20 

LAST WEEK, after almost 21 years, the U.S. government agreed to drop its case against Khader Hamide and Michel Shehadeh. The two men, who are of Palestinian descent, were permanent legal residents of the United States when they were targeted for deportation because of their alleged affiliation with a terrorist group. The government's evidence was so flimsy and its legal arguments so bizarre that many in the immigrants' rights, civil liberties and Arab American communities came to see the case as an overt act of hostility by the government toward people of Arab descent -- and understandably so. 

The saga began in 1987 when Mr. Hamide and Mr. Shehadeh, along with six others who came to be known as the Los Angeles Eight, were arrested and accused of supporting the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), an extremist offshoot of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The PFLP is, in fact, a loathsome group that relies on violence and terrorist tactics as strategic tools. The men had raised money for the group and distributed its magazine, although they consistently denied they were members and claimed to have donated money to fund the group's humanitarian work in assisting displaced Palestinians. Apparently the government recognized from the beginning that its case was weak, because it decided to try to deport the men under a Cold War-era law prohibiting membership in an international communist organization; the PFLP espoused Marxist ideology. 

The law, under fire from court challenges, was repealed in 1990. But that didn't stop the government, which in 2003 tried to remove the two men from the country by retroactively applying a law that did not exist in 1987. This law, which prohibits "material support" of a terrorist organization, was passed in 1996 -- almost a decade after the men were arrested. 

In dropping the case, the government conceded only that neither Mr. Hamide nor Mr. Shehadeh are "currently" believed to be dangerous. Yet in 20-plus years of federal court filings and immigration proceedings, prosecutors were unable to produce a shred of evidence to show that the men were a threat. 

Mr. Hamide and Mr. Shehadeh have lived lawfully in this country with their families for decades. Now that the case against them has been dropped, they will be allowed to apply for citizenship in three years. Both have said they will do so. It speaks volumes about these two men -- and, we'd like to hope, about the ideals of the United States that were violated in the execution of this case -- that Mr. Hamide and Mr. Shehadeh still wish to be bound as citizens to a country that has treated them so shabbily. 

© 2007 The Washington Post Company 


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