Let them come back,
I'll get the answers
2 Lodi residents refused entry back into U.S.
Demian Bulwa, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, August 26, 2006
(08-26) 04:00 PDT Sacramento -- The federal government has barred two relatives of a Lodi man convicted of supporting terrorists from returning to the country after a lengthy stay in Pakistan, placing the U.S. citizens in an extraordinary legal limbo.
Muhammad Ismail, a 45-year-old naturalized citizen born in Pakistan, and his 18-year-old son, Jaber Ismail, who was born in the United States, have not been charged with a crime. However, they are the uncle and cousin of Hamid Hayat, a 23-year-old Lodi cherry packer who was convicted in April of supporting terrorists by attending a Pakistani training camp.
Federal authorities said Friday that the men, both Lodi residents, would not be allowed back into the country unless they agreed to FBI interrogations in Pakistan. An attorney representing the family said agents have asked whether the younger Ismail trained in terrorist camps in Pakistan.
The men and three relatives had been in Pakistan for more than four years and tried to return to the United States on April 21 as a federal jury in Sacramento deliberated Hayat's fate. But they were pulled aside during a layover in Hong Kong and told there was a problem with their passports, said Julia Harumi Mass, their attorney.
The father and son were forced to pay for a flight back to Islamabad because they were on the government's "no-fly" list, Mass said. Muhammad Ismail's wife, teenage daughter and younger son, who were not on the list, continued on to the United States.
Neither Muhammad nor Jaber Ismail holds dual Pakistani citizenship, Mass said.
"We haven't heard about this happening -- U.S. citizens being refused the right to return from abroad without any charges or any basis," said Mass, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union.
McGregor Scott, the U.S. attorney for California's eastern district, confirmed Friday that the men were on the no-fly list and were being kept out of the country until they agreed to talk to federal authorities.
"They've been given the opportunity to meet with the FBI over there and answer a few questions, and they've declined to do that," Scott said.
Mass said Jaber Ismail had answered questions during an FBI interrogation at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad soon after he was forced back to Pakistan. She said the teenager had run afoul of the FBI when he declined to be interviewed again without a lawyer and refused to take a lie-detector test.
The Ismails had been in Pakistan partly so Jaber could study the Quran, Mass said. She said that neither he nor his father had anything to do with terrorism.
"They want to come home and have an absolute right to come home," said Mass, who has filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security and a petition with the Transportation Security Administration.
"They can't be compelled to waive their constitutional rights under threat of banishment," Mass said. "The government is conditioning the return to their home on cooperation with law enforcement."
Aviation watch lists were created in 1990 to keep terrorists off planes and track drug smugglers and other fugitives. But since al Qaeda's attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the government has expanded the lists significantly. Members of the public cannot find out if, or why, they are on a no-fly list.
Michael Barr, director of the aviation safety and security program at USC, said the Ismail case appears to be unusual in the realm of federal terrorism investigations.
"You become what is called a stateless person, and that would be very unprecedented," Barr said.
He said U.S. law enforcement agents have understandably been "overly cautious" in recent years. "If they're going to err, they're going to err on the side of caution," Barr said. "What's happened in a lot of these things is that you're guilty until proven innocent."
Why are they not in federal court over this? These are American citizens, not residents, not illegals.
posted by Steve @ 4:49:00 PM