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News ::
Outcome of Amer Jubran's trial (english)
07 Nov 2003
Modified: 22 Nov 2003
Today's proceeding - the long-delayed and final hearing in the case of Amer Jubran - saw the complete collapse of all pretenses to fairness, justice and objectivity. Despite the government's insistence to the contrary, this case has always been an effort to silence voices that speak out for Palestinian liberation and against the policies of the United States and its client state Israel. Nothing about today's proceedings has succeeded in silencing those voices.
****please forward widely****

Today's proceeding - the long-delayed and final hearing in the case of Amer Jubran - saw the complete collapse of all pretenses to fairness, justice and objectivity. Despite the government's insistence to the contrary, this case has always been an effort to silence voices that speak out for Palestinian liberation and against the policies of the United States and its client state Israel. Nothing about today's proceedings has succeeded in silencing those voices.

After being denied adequate time to review fifty pages of government doccuments submitted a week before his final trial (and four months after the June 24 deadline for disclosing evidence), after being denied his fundamental right to be represented by effective council, and after being compelled to testify without any legal representation at all, after realizing there is no possibility for due process in this court, Amer decided to request of the court that he be granted "voluntary departure" from the United States. In March 2004, unless the government continues its persecution of him, he will return to his home in Jordan.

Amer was offered three choices at today's trial: proceeding with a lawyer that he did not trust to represent him, representing himself despite his lack of legal expertise, or submitting to direct questions from the judge without any legal representation at all. When Amer was first arrested and interrogated by the INS and FBI, he refused to answer any questions without a lawyer present; today, he found himself in the same situation. In fact, this entire proceeding was an extension of the illegitimate process that began in November of 2002, and, from the first illegal arrest to today's farcical hearing, it has had only one motive-to silence Amer as a political activist and to intimidate the members of his community. It has unequivocally failed.

The government has never presented sufficient evidence to challenge Amer's immigration status; in fact, for almost a year, it presented no evidence at all. But immigration courts are the legal equivalent of a stacked deck, and cases like this are not settled on the basis of evidence. Amer's decision to take voluntary departure came from his refusal to facilitate the fundamentally unfair process through which he was dragged. Although innocent, he was left with no options to make a legitimate defense, and the government made it clear that it was willing to damage and destroy the lives of Amer's ex-wife, her family, and even their former neighbors to pursue its case against him. Had the trial gone forward, it would have allowed the government to prolong the use of these proceedings as a means of conducting an illegitimate investigation not only into details of Amer's life irrelevant to the merits of the immigration case, but also, more frighteningly, into the lives of many other immigrants who are vulnerable to government harassment.

After Amer's first trial, on July 24th, the judge remarked that the prosecution didn't seem to have a case; all but one of the original charges against Amer had been dropped, and the government had no witnesses and no evidence to present. Since the burden of proof in immigration cases rests on the defense, not the prosecution, the government had hoped that it could intimidate Amer's ex-wife into refusing to testify, but she appeared in court, and after a grueling four hours of testimony, the judge, convinced, indicated that he was prepared to rule in Amer's favor. The prosecuting attorney, however, claimed that his wife was sick and received a two-month continuance; a month later, he delayed the trial another six weeks because, apparently, he had to drive to a pre-arranged event in Indiana on the trial date. (Despite this, he was in his office on the morning of the date in question.)

Eight days before Amer's final trial on November 6th, the government gave Amer's lawyer a 52-page packet of evidence, comprising 19 separate items and revealing an extensive (and, until that point, secret) investigation involving at least 12 different federal agents. The packet was intended as a threat, but not to Amer; page after page of questionable reports, contradictory testimony, and incomplete forms clearly showed that the government had been harassing more than Amer's ex-wife and her family. As the judge remarked, the packet didn't contain anything that cast prior testimony into doubt, but in order to prepare a response, Amer instructed his lawyer to request a continuance, which the judge refused to grant. Although the government, with no basis, had delayed the case for months, Amer was not allowed a mere two weeks to review new evidence and prepare a defense against it.

When the motion for a continuance was denied, Amer's lawyer-without Amer's consent and against his explicit instructions-made an arrangement with the prosecuting attorney and the judge that would have opened up lines of questioning about matters unrelated to the marriage case, including Amer's legitimate political activities. The judge then intended to grant the prosecution another continuance, which would give the government yet another opportunity to investigate every possible avenue indicated by the already irrelevant testimony. In this kind of court, the original charges are of no importance, and it does not matter if the defendant meets the burden of proof; the process of investigation has no legitimate legal goal and no limit except the government's willingness to spend time and money, terrify innocent people, and ruin lives, particularly the lives of immigrants and the poor--the groups of people that their investigation placed pressure on.

In light of the arrangement made in his absence between both lawyers and the court, it became clear that Amer's lawyer was acting as an officer of the court and not in Amer's best interest. After declaring his intention to seek alternate council, Amer asked for another continuance in order to seek such council, but the judge denied this request as well, insisting that Amer would either have to represent himself (which Amer repeatedly stated he was unwilling to do) or proceed forward without legal representation, and faced with questions not from an advocate but from the judge himself. When the prosecution asked for delays, they were granted no matter the reason, but when Amer asked for a continuance on wholly valid grounds, the judge, ironically, cited Amer's right to a "quick and speedy trial," as well as the pressure placed on the court by the defense committee itself. Faced with this nightmare logic, coupled
with the prospect of an endless, boundless investigation that would threaten the vulnerable, Amer felt that his only choice was to request voluntary departure.

After more than a decade of fighting for justice in the United States, Amer is returning to his home -- or at least as much of a home as a Palestinian refugee can claim. Even as the media and hate-pedalers in Washington would like to convince us otherwise, there are many advantages to living in the Arab World, even apart from being closer to family. This is not the end of his life, but the beginning of a new part of it. Amer can return with his head held high knowing that he did not cave in to the intimidation tactics of the US government.

Those of us who have stood with Amer and who have seen the unfairness and political motivations of this process up close, believe he made the best possible decision given the circumstances. During the Red Scare of the 50's and the political grand juries of the 70's and 80's, people of principle who refused to participate in the government's illegal witchhunt could invoke their fifth ammendment rights to avoid participating. The immigration courts allow no such right, which begins to make it more clear why the government is targeting immigrants as it seeks to suppress dissent at home against its brutal and misguided policies abroad. The best way Amer could take a principled stand when the Judge refused to give him time to secure ethical legal representation was to seek voluntary departure. We admire him for making this principled choice, we admire him for his fearlessness, and we will each intensify our own voice and courage so that the voice for justice in Palestine will not waver. We call on all of you to raise your voice for justice for Palestine and to fight against the anti-democratic campaign of repression being carried out by the US government. We will not be intimidated and we will not be silent!

The Amer Jubran Defense Committee
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Good riddance (english)
22 Nov 2003
good riddance