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ADC Helps Win Release of Palestinian Man Facing Indefinite Detention

ADC Update - 22 June 2000

After almost four years in INS detention, Mohamed Mahmoud, a stateless Palestinian, is a free man. Mr. Mahmoud was forced to serve an indefinite sentence in INS detention because of his status as stateless Palestinian.

His case is a result of a 1996 immigration law called the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA). IIRAIRA made detention, without the possibility of release on bond, mandatory for non-citizens convicted of minor criminal offenses. The purpose behind this was to deport people for certain criminal offenses after they served their sentences. The law however, failed to take into account those deportees who are stateless or have no country to which they can return. Thus, when a stateless person is confined to mandatory detention pending a deportation which can never take place, the result is a potential life sentence.

Mr. Mahmoud was born in Palestine. His family became refugees following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Mahmoud traveled using Israeli travel documents, however he is neither an Israeli citizen nor a citizen of any other country. Mahmoud was convicted of a minor offense in the United States and completed his sentence on September 14, 1996. He was transferred to INS custody with a final order of deportation entered on August 6, 1996.

ADC learned of Mahmoud’s predicament when he contacted our office. ADC immediately began working on Mahmoud’s case and took numerous steps to assist him, including a letter that was hand delivered by ADC President Hala Maksoud to Attorney General Janet Reno requesting that his case be reviewed. ADC also made an intense effort to find a country which would receive Mr. Mahmoud. Finally, after four years of detention, Mr. Mahmoud was released on June 14, 2000.

In his letter to ADC’s Legal Director, Kamal Nawash, informing us of his release, Mahmoud wrote, “I want to let you know that I was released to my sponsor in Gresham, Oregon, on June 14, 2000, I want to thank you and ADC for your help in assisting my release from a four year INS detention. Well, I do not have to be at a halfway house or anything. I am home free and exploring my options for a career. Life in society seems much different after 11 years of incarceration. If you have any ideas for me, please let me know. Maybe we can work on opening an ADC Chapter in Oregon.”

ADC has been very active in responding to the growing problem of indefinite detention. We have assisted many people like Mr. Mahmoud and have worked with the ACLU and other organizations to introduce legislation to abolish indefinite detention. We are also working with Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) on a bill that will address indefinite detentions. In meantime, if you know of any person in a situation similar to that of Mr. Mahmoud, please call ADC Legal Director, Kamal Nawash, at (202) 244-2990.

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
4201 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Suite 300
Washington, D.C. 20008, U.S.A.
Tel: (202) 244-2990, Fax: (202) 244-3196

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