U.S. Judge Orders the Release of 8 in Palestinian Case
Seven Palestinians and a Kenyan woman previously held without bail and accused of disseminating communist literature were ordered released Tuesday, some on their own recognizance and others on bond.
Immigration Judge Roy Daniel ruled that the eight all appeared to have substantial “equities” in the United States and should be released.
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service attorney Melainie Fitzsimmons had asked Daniel to continue the “no-bail hold” on the defendants, arguing that they might flee if freed and were a threat to national security.
At the time of their arrests, the defendants were linked by the government to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Marxist organization.
Fitzsimmons told the judge that the evidence she was prepared to present in defense of her contention, however, could only be offered in the judge’s chambers because of its sensitive nature.
She said she was prepared to present testimony from an FBI agent and a witness, who feared retaliation from the group. But she said the U.S. attorney general had authorized release of the agent’s testimony only in private.
Daniel refused to allow the testimony to be given outside the public proceeding, however, arguing that the government had not made a strong enough showing that the testimony would be relevant.
Lawyers for each of the eight defendants denied that their clients were members of the PFLP.
Five of the defendants were released on their own recognizance, and the other three were released on bail of $3,000, $2,000 and $500.
After the bail proceedings, the defendants faced a deportation hearing in the same Federal Building courtroom.
Outside court, tempers flared between Jewish and Arab activists. Two supporters of the eight aliens were dragged away by companions after a heated confrontation with Irv Rubin, national leader of the militant Jewish Defense League.
Rubin drew the ire of the several hundred Arab supporters when he and a handful of others began chanting, “Hell no, PLO. Deport them now.” Rubin carried a placard warning “Commie Dogs Beware.”
Two Arab supporters confronted Rubin and his group and tried to shout them down, chanting, “Long live the PLO. Hell no, JDL.” They held banners reading “No More Arab Scapegoats.”
There was no physical violence, although two people were cited for causing a disturbance and released. Their names were not immediately available.
Abdeen Jabara, president of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, claimed outside court that the charges were an attempt to “deflect attention away from failed (U.S.) Middle East policies and deflect attention from the fact Americans traveling abroad are exposed to violence.”
The FBI announced last month at the end of a 10-month investigation that the aliens were members or affiliates of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a militant offshoot of the Palestine Liberation Organization that has carried out skyjackings and bombings abroad but no recorded terrorist acts in the United States.
In Washington Tuesday, INS Commissioner Alan Nelson declined to intervene in the case, despite the pleas of Arab-American community leaders.
He did, however, promise to “look into it.”
Jim Abourezk, a former senator and longtime defender of Arab-American rights, said after a meeting with Nelson that he had urged the INS to either lower the bond or drop the charges.
“Nelson said he would not intervene,” Abourezk said.
Abourezk, chairman of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said Nelson promised to look into the matter and assured him that an INS draft contingency plan, revealed earlier this month, had never been approved.
The documents indicated that the Reagan Administration was drafting plans for the identification and deportation of aliens linked to terrorist organizations.
Attorneys for the immigrants claim that the eight are victims of a politically motivated government attack on the rights of Arab-Americans.
Seven of the aliens had been held without bail since their arrest on Jan. 26. The eighth was arrested by federal agents last week on the campus of Chaffey College in San Bernardino County.