Nicolas Sarkozy : « Badges retracted from 72 Roissy employees: we must continue to take precautions »

Seventy-two Roissy airport employees were asked to give up their badges on the grounds that they belonged to or were close to fundamentalist Islamist organizations. For Nicolas Sarkozy, the main concern is “to take precautions in a zone where there are millions of passangers.” The following morning, Phillippe de Villiers, president of the Movement for France, opined that there are “probably still reserves of Islamist baggage carriers at Roissy.” De Villiers published a book last April stating that Islamists had taken control of entire zones of Roissy airport, most notably the baggage area. The employees’ lawyer, on the other hand, was livid. He claimed that the airport had no proof at all that the employees had done anything inappropriate. He called the whole incident base discrimination.

Muslim Airport Workers Protest in France

PARIS (AP) — One was a security agent once praised for finding a weapon in a piece of luggage, another handled baggage and a third delivered mail. All are practicing Muslims who worked at the main Paris airport – until their security clearance was revoked. They are among 72 people who had security badges taken back – and lost their jobs – over the past 18 months, caught in a campaign by French authorities to guard Charles de Gaulle airport against the risk of terror. The three are among 11 people who have gone to court challenging the loss of their security clearance. A hearing in the case is set for Nov. 10. “What did we do? I want to know,” said Abdelhamid Kalai, who worked as a baggage handler for seven years before being suspended last month. “Sometimes they accuse people because they’re Muslims,” said the 40-year-old father of three, who left his native Algeria in 1992. “We pay for the others.” Daniel Saadat, a lawyer representing four of the former workers, said the case is a stark example of discrimination against innocent Muslims caught up in security fears. Authorities say the situation arises from the need for zero risk at Charles de Gaulle, where 90,000 people work. Security concerns since the Sept. 11 attacks were boosted after British officials in August foiled an alleged plot to blow up trans-Atlantic flights. At Orly, the second-largest Paris airport, one or two workers have had their security badges rescinded in the past year, said Yvon Caratero, deputy chief of the Air and Border Police. The office of Jacques Lebrot, deputy prefect responsible for airport security, said 72 airport workers in all had lost security clearance since May 2005, a majority of them for having links to militant Islamic circles. Officials have not released specific details. An Aug. 17 letter reviewed by The Associated Press advised one airport worker at Charles de Gaulle of having an “attitude that could put airport security into question” and “behavior incompatible with obtaining (security) authorization.” An Oct. 5 follow-up letter said the employee’s security clearance was denied due to “elements of behavior and morality.” The decision said the person, who asked not to be identified, “presents a significant danger for airport security.” Saadat, the lawyer, said authorities had been asked for proof of wrongdoing. “So far, we have been shown nothing. The common ground is that they are Muslims.” Herve Bataille, 30, a security agent who converted to Islam 10 years ago, received a commendation letter in March 2005 for finding a weapon in hand luggage at his security checkpoint at Charles de Gaulle. A second letter praised his conduct during an airport visit by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy a month later. Today, he is out of work. Bataille freely talks of traveling to India, Bangladesh and Pakistan and being a member of the Tabligh missionary movement, which started in 1927 in India and is seen today as a potential source of radical Islam. Richard Reid, who tried to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight in 2001 with explosives in his shoe, attended mosques run by Tabligh. The French newspaper Le Parisien on Wednesday quoted Lebrot, the deputy prefect, as saying one airport worker who lost security clearance had “continuous contact” with a person “in direct contact with Richard Reid.” Bataille denies any connection to the shoebomber, as does another Tabligh follower, Karim Kherfouche, 29, who lost his security clearance and job loading planes with mail for Chronopost, a French speed mail service. Bataille and others said they were questioned about their religion, how they practiced it, and whether they had made a pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam’s holy site. “If it’s because you put your foot in Pakistan and those countries, then they’re lumping everything together,” said Bataille, who sports a trimmed beard. For Caratero, the police official at Orly, the emphasis is on the “potential danger” a worker represents. Saadat, the lawyer, said no one questions that authorities must ensure airport security. But, he adds, none of the workers who lost their security clearance have been detained for questioning. “If they have something on them, it would be criminal not to follow up,” he said.

Italian Author Accused Of Defaming Islam

Fallaci, who lives in New York, was not expected to attend the hearing in Bergamo, northern Italy. Muslim activist Adel Smith filed a lawsuit against Fallaci, charging that some passages in her book, “The Strength of Reason,” were offensive to Islam. Smith’s lawyer cited a phrase from the book that refers to Islam as “a pool … that never purifies.” Last year, a judge ordered that she stand trial on charges of violating an Italian law that prohibits “outrage to religion.” He cited a passage that reads: “To be under the illusion that there is a good Islam and a bad Islam or not to understand that Islam is only one … is against reason.” Fallaci told The Associated Press last year that “I have expressed my opinion through the written word through my books, that is all.” A former resistance fighter and war correspondent, Fallaci has often stirred controversy for her blunt publications and provocative stances. Her most recent books have drawn accusations she incites hatred against Muslims, the AP reports. In her best-selling essay “The Rage and the Pride,” written as a response to the Sept. 11 attacks, Fallaci wrote that Muslims “multiply like rats” and said “the children of Allah spend their time with their bottoms in the air, praying five times a day.” A group in France unsuccessfully sought to stop distribution of the book. In The Strength of Reason, Fallaci accuses Europe of having sold its soul to what she describes as an Islamic invasion. Smith is also known for taking radical positions. He gained attention in Italy in 2003 when he sought unsuccessfully to have the crucifix removed from the public elementary school his sons attended. As head of the small Muslim Union of Italy, he has launched numerous legal battles, causing several Islamic organizations to distance themselves.

Held In 9/11 Net, Muslims Return To Accuse U.S.

By NINA BERNSTEIN Hundreds of noncitizens were swept up on visa violations in the weeks after 9/11, held for months in a much-criticized federal detention center in Brooklyn as “persons of interest” to terror investigators, and then deported. This week, one of them is back in New York and another is due today – the first to return to the United States. They are no longer the accused but the accusers, among six former detainees who are coming back to give depositions in their federal lawsuits against top government officials and detention guards, at a time when the constitutionality of part of the government’s counterterrorism offensive is under new scrutiny. As in the cases of all the Muslim immigrants rounded up in the New York area after the terror attacks, the six were never accused of a crime related to 9/11; officials eventually cleared all of them of links to terrorism. A report by the inspector general of the Justice Department found systemic problems with immigrant detentions and widespread abuse at the federal detention center where the six had been held; several guards have since been disciplined. But as the six return to the city – four of them from Egypt, one from Pakistan, one from London – the conditions imposed by the United States government include the requirement that they be in the constant custody of federal marshals. They are barred from calling anyone during their weeklong stays at an undisclosed New York hotel, where 12 days of closed depositions are to begin today. They can expect hours of questioning by lawyers representing at least 31 defendants in the lawsuits, including John Ashcroft, the former attorney general, and Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the F.B.I. The first returning detainees, Yasser and Hany Ibrahim, who are brothers, say that putting themselves back in the hands of the government they are suing is an act of faith in America. In recent telephone interviews from Alexandria, Egypt, the two described themselves as frightened but resolute in pressing a 2002 class-action lawsuit charging that they were abused and deprived of due process because of their religion or national origin. “I’m seeking justice,” said Yasser, 33, who had a Web site design business in Brooklyn before he and Hany, 29, a deli worker, were delivered in shackles to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn 19 days after 9/11. “It’s from the same system that did us injustice before. But I have faith in this system. I know what happened before was a mistake.” Charles S. Miller, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said officials would not comment on any aspect of the case, including the conditions of the men’s return to the city and their allegations. But in court papers, the defendants deny wrongdoing, and department lawyers argue in part that the Sept. 11 attacks created “special factors” – including the need to detect and deter future terrorist attacks – that outweigh the plaintiffs’ right to sue for damages for any constitutional violations. The detainees’ lawyers say that what happened at the Brooklyn detention center can be recognized four years later as the template for many of the counterterrorism measures now being fiercely challenged. “The post-9/11 domestic immigration sweeps were the first example of the Bush administration’s willingness to ignore the law and hold people outside the judicial system,” said Rachel Meeropol, a lawyer for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents the Ibrahim brothers. “The kind of torture, interrogation and arbitrary detention that we now associate with Guant_namo and secret C.I.A. facilities really started right here, in Brooklyn.” Richard Peter Caro, a lawyer for Stuart Pray, the lieutenant who oversaw the detainees’ arrival at the detention center, said yesterday: “We’re glad that they’re coming in to be deposed so we can really get at the facts and finally see what the evidence shows. I’m confident that my client will be found to have committed no wrongdoing at all.” Last week, the center filed a class-action suit against President Bush and other administration officials over the National Security Agency’s domestic eavesdropping without warrants. Ms. Meeropol is one of the plaintiffs, contending that her communications with clients like the Ibrahims may have been monitored illegally. The government says the surveillance program is a legal and valuable tool in the war on terror. Illegal recording of lawyer-client conversations was one of the abuses documented at the Brooklyn detention center in a scathing 2003 report by the Justice Department’s inspector general. The report also found a pattern of physical abuse, some of it caught on prison videotape, including beatings and sexual humiliations like those described by the Ibrahim brothers or other former detainees. The report said it was Mr. Ashcroft’s policy to hold detainees on any legal pretext until the F.B.I. cleared them, even though such clearances took months and many detainees were immigrants picked up by chance. At the time, Mr. Ashcroft said he made “no apologies” for finding every legal way possible to protect the American public. Nonetheless, officials pledged to work on getting kinks out of the system, and said abuses would be punished. Critics charge that the authority that Mr. Ashcroft asserted after 9/11 – to detain any noncitizen considered a “person of interest” secretly and indefinitely – is unconstitutional. Government officials argue that secrecy is needed to keep terrorists in the dark. Mr. Ashcroft has sought to have the two lawsuits brought by the detainees dismissed. But in a decision appealed by the government, a federal judge in Brooklyn ruled in September that he and other defendants would have to answer questions, at a later deposition, in one of the suits: a 2004 complaint by another two of the six returning detainees. Those two men, in their late 30’s, are Ehab Elmaghraby, an Egyptian immigrant who ran a restaurant near Times Square, and Javaid Iqbal, a Pakistani immigrant whose Long Island customers knew him as “the cable guy.” “I am not afraid,” Mr. Iqbal wrote last week in an e-mail message about his return. “I am also sure that justice will be served because peoples of U.S.A. are justice-loving people regardless of race and religion.” The Ibrahim brothers are more fearful. They say that their parents begged them not to return to the country where they were held in maximum security without charges for eight months and, the brothers charge, beaten and tormented by guards. “Part of my motivation is to make sure that what happened to us doesn’t happen to more people in the future,” said Yasser, who was due to arrive in New York today, joining his brother, who came on Friday. Both spoke with nostalgia of the three or four years they lived in New York, on and off, before 9/11. When they were not working, they said, they hung out together in Greenwich Village, browsed electronics stores near Times Square and took friends on the rides at Coney Island. Hany proudly recalled how he worked his way up from stock boy to grill man and then manager of a deli in Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn. “The best I lived in my life was in New York,” he said. Right after the World Trade Center attack, they said, their parents urged them to come home. “We assured them,” Yasser recalled: ” ‘This is the United States. They don’t arrest people for no charges. We didn’t do anything, so nothing’s going to happen to us.’ ” But at 2 p.m. on Sept. 30, 2001, the lawsuit says, a dozen terrorism investigators from the F.B.I., the police and immigration services knocked at the door of the Ocean Parkway apartment that the brothers shared with several Egyptian and Moroccan friends. After questioning, the investigators took away Yasser, Hany and another man, all of whose tourist visas had expired. Why investigators showed up is unclear, said their lawyer, Ms. Meeropol. But she noted that some interrogations were prompted by anonymous tips about “suspicious-looking” foreign men. Federal officials have contended that at a time when a second terror attack seemed imminent, all tips had to be checked. As
a practical matter, once the brothers were labeled “of interest” to investigators, they were destined for the maximum-security unit of the Metropolitan Detention Center. Physical abuse, the lawsuit says, began the moment they arrived, chained and shackled. As Yasser described it, guards supervised by Lieutenant Pray slammed his brother face-first into a wall where an American flag T-shirt had been taped, then did the same to him. Pain became part of the brothers’ daily routine, the lawsuit charges. Escort teams cursing them as Muslims and terrorists slammed them into every available wall when they were taken from their cells, twisted their wrists and fingers, and stepped on their leg chains so that they fell, their ankles bruised and bloody, according to the suit. But worse than physical or verbal abuse, Yasser said, was “the feeling that we are being hidden from the outside world, and nobody knows in the outside world that we are arrested and in this place.” Hany, who says he had a nervous breakdown when he returned to Egypt, recalled that guards and lieutenants terrified him by saying, “You’re going to stay here the rest of your life.” At a closed immigration hearing on Nov. 20, three weeks after their arrest, the brothers agreed to immediate deportation. By Dec. 7, the lawsuit says, F.B.I. memos stated that clearance checks on the Ibrahims had shown no links to terrorism. But they were held six more months – Hany until May 29, 2002, and Yasser until June 6. The suit asks the court to declare that all the detentions were unjustified and illegal, to award compensatory and punitive damages, and to order the government to return personal property it confiscated. To prevent unnecessary detentions and abuses of noncitizens in the event of a new national emergency, the Justice Department’s inspector general, Glenn A. Fine, in 2003 recommended changes in counterterrorism policy as well as disciplinary action against at least 10 guards and supervisors. In his last report to Congress, in August 2005, Mr. Fine said that many of his recommendations had been acted upon but that formal policy changes were still being negotiated. The Federal Bureau of Prisons has fired two detention officers, suspended two for 30 days and demoted one in connection with the Brooklyn inquiry, said Traci Billingsley, a bureau spokeswoman. The Ibrahim brothers say that when they finally reached home, they found that the presumption of guilt had followed them into an Egyptian secret service dossier that made them unemployable. Yasser, now married with a 2-year-old son, said he and Hany were eking out a living in a small jewelry business. “It’s going to be very difficult for me to go back for just a week and not to be able to see the places that I loved before,” he said of his return. “America’s the land of the free.”

German Authorities Close Islamic Center

By STEPHEN GRAHAM BERLIN – Authorities on Wednesday shut down an Islamic center once attended by a man who accuses the CIA of kidnapping him and sending him to a secret Afghan prison to be abused and interrogated. The man’s lawyer has linked the alleged kidnapping to the investigation of extremist activity at the center. The state government of Bavaria said Wednesday it was shutting down the Multi-Kultur-Haus association in the southern town of Neu-Ulm after it seized material urging Muslims to carry out suicide attacks in Iraq. Khaled al-Masri, a Kuwait-born German citizen who is suing the CIA for allegedly spiriting him to Afghanistan for interrogation, has said he visited the center several times before he was snatched. Al-Masri said he was taken while trying to enter Macedonia on New Year’s Eve 2003 and flown to Afghanistan, where he was subjected to “torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” during five months in captivity, according to a lawsuit filed in a Virginia federal court. He was flown to Albania in late May 2004 and put on a plane back to Germany, he has said. Al-Masri has said his captors told him he was seized in a case of mistaken identity. His lawyer, however, has suggested that al-Masri was abducted because of his links to the Islamic association, which provided meetings, prayer rooms and other services for local Muslims. “In all interrogations, in Macedonia and Afghanistan, Khaled al-Masri was asked only about the Multi-Kultur-Haus in Ulm, about the people he knew there,” Manfred Gnjidic told Munich’s Abendzeitung newspaper last month. Al-Masri’s case has stoked debate in Germany about how to prevent terrorist attacks while safeguarding civil liberties. Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, for instance, is calling for tougher laws so that anyone who has trained in camps in Afghanistan can be prosecuted. In remarks published Wednesday, Uwe Schuenemann, the interior minister of Lower Saxony state, floated a new idea: placing electronic tags on foreign extremists who cannot be deported to their countries of origin because they might be tortured. “That would allow the observation of many of the roughly 3,000 potentially violent Islamists, hate preachers and fighters trained in foreign camps,” Schuenemann was quoted as saying in the daily Die Welt. It was unclear whether federal officials would take up the suggestion. Electronic tags were used in 2000 on a trial basis in one German state with prisoners on parole, but have not been adopted more widely. Al-Masri claims U.S. agents questioned him about associates including his friend Reda Seyam, an Egypt-born German citizen under investigation by German federal prosecutors on suspicion of supporting al-Qaida. Al-Masri has denied any connection to terrorism. Bavarian Interior Minister Guenther Beckstein told The Associated Press on Wednesday that investigators had noticed al-Masri visiting the Multi-Kultur-Haus but called him “rather a marginal figure.” Beckstein’s ministry said the association was promoting extremist ideas and armed “holy war.” Security officials confiscated and searched the association’s premises in Neu-Ulm Wednesday and froze its bank account. There was no mention of arrests or the results of the search.

Experts Say Indigenous Terror Threat Real

By Jeremiah Marquez LOS ANGELES — An alleged plot targeting military facilities, synagogues and other Los Angeles-area sites has highlighted what experts say is a novel terrorist threat: homegrown American militants operating with little or no help from Islamic extremists abroad. Four suspects were charged last week with conspiring to wage war against the U.S. government through terrorism. Named in the federal indictment were Levar Haley Washington, 25; Gregory Vernon Patterson, 21; Hammad Riaz Samana, 21; and Kevin James, 29. All but Samana, a Pakistani national, are American-born and Muslim converts. Counterterrorism officials have found no evidence directly connecting the group–described as the cell of a California prison gang of radical Muslims–to Al Qaeda or other foreign terrorist networks. Law-enforcement officials and terrorism experts said it could represent one of the first Islamic terrorism cases involving U.S. natives without those connections. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes, an international dragnet has broken up training camps, disrupted finances and sent terrorist leaders underground, making it all the more difficult for Al Qaeda to mount attacks. Yet despite tougher border control, a radical ideology shared by the terrorist network continues to seep into the United States through propaganda distributed via the Internet, books, pamphlets, DVDs and the media–a “passive recruiting strategy,” according to terrorism experts. That has helped transform Al Qaeda into a movement with disciples acting without funding, expertise or guidance from foreign handlers. “Al Qaeda can’t get their militants to the places they want to hit, so they rely on an ideology to gain converts who do it for them,” said professor Brian Levin, a terrorism researcher at California State University, San Bernardino. In the Southern California case, prosecutors say cell members largely supported themselves. Washington, Patterson and Samana allegedly robbed gas stations to finance their plans to target military sites, synagogues, the Israeli Consulate and the El Al airport counter in the Los Angeles area. Patterson purchased a .223-caliber rifle. Samana underwent “firearms training and physical training” at a local park, according to the indictment. They even conducted Internet research on potential targets and Jewish holidays–dates for which they allegedly planned the assaults to “maximize the number of casualties,” prosecutors said. Samana’s lawyer, Timothy Lannen, described his client in a statement as a “peace-loving, law-abiding member of our community” and said “he did not intend at any time to commit violence against anyone.” An attorney in Washington’s state robbery case had not reviewed the federal indictment and had no immediate comment. Patterson’s lawyer has said his client asked him not to comment. The plot’s suspected mastermind was James, a California State Prison, Sacramento, inmate who founded the radical group Jamiyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh, authorities said. Washington converted to Islam while imprisoned there for a previous robbery conviction. Self-made groups in the United States can be more difficult to root out because they’re smaller and have fewer financial resources to track, experts said. “They’re adopting the Al Qaeda agenda and philosophy and carrying out their own jihad,” said Oliver “Buck” Revell, a former FBI associate deputy director and counterterrorism chief. “Unfortunately, they may be successful because they’re extremely hard to detect.”

Newspaper Cleared Over ‘Kill Muslims’ Letter

PHOENIX: The Arizona state Supreme Court ruled on Friday a Tucson newspaper could not be held liable for publishing a letter that urged people to kill Muslims to retaliate for the death of American soldiers in Iraq. In a 5-0 ruling, Arizona’s highest court found unanimously the Tucson Citizen was protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution and could not be sued for printing the letter in December 2003. The opinion reversed a lower court judge. The court stated the letter to the editor does not fall within one of the well-recognised exceptions to the general rule of First Amendment protection for political speech. It ordered the case be sent back to Pima County Superior Court and dismissed without the chance to be refiled. Michael Chihak, the Citizen’s editor and publisher, said the ruling vindicated the paper’s decision and could have broader ramifications for others. It is obviously a favourable ruling for us, and not just for us, but for the First Amendment, he said. If the ruling had been unfavourable, it may have led people to curb expressions of their thoughts, opinions and feelings rather than adding to the public dialogue. Herb Beigel, a lawyer for the two Tucson men who filed the lawsuit said he was disappointed by the ruling and had not yet decided whether to appeal the case to the US Supreme Court. Beigel condemned the decision as giving the press protection that is far broader than the US Supreme Court has ruled in the past, and said a deeper investigation into the facts of the case was needed before a decision was rendered. The lawsuit, filed by Aly W Elleithee and Wali Yudeen S Abdul Rahim, stemmed from a three-paragraph letter in the Citizen that called for quick retaliation for soldiers’ deaths. Whenever there is an assassination or another atrocity, we should proceed to the closest mosque and execute five of the first Muslims we encounter, the letter said. After all, this is a _Holy War and although such a procedure is not fair or just, it might end the horror.

Blair Plays Down Impact Of Terror Law

LONDON: Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday that Britain would hold only “a handful” of suspects under new anti-terrorism house arrest laws that are unique in Europe and have outraged rights campaigners.But his home secretary said a first target could be four British Muslims freed overnight after returning home from the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay. Britain announced the new house arrest powers on Wednesday to replace the power to jail foreigners without trial, which the highest court, the Law Lords, ruled violated basic rights. But rights campaigners say the new measures – which would target Britons as well as foreigners – were even more draconian than the laws they would replace. Blair, in a television interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, sought to play down the likely impact. “It will not apply to anything other than a handful of people,” he said “I pay great attention to the civil liberties of the country,” he added. “But on the other hand, there is a new form of global terrorism in our country, in every other European country and most countries around the world. They will cause death and destruction on an unlimited scale.” The new measures would still require Britain to declare an emergency and suspend parts of the European Convention on Human Rights, said Ian MacDonald, a lawyer who quit in protest from a panel appointed by the government to protect detainees. “That raises the question of how long is an emergency,” he added. “Why is it that no other country which faces the same threat has done the same thing?” Natalie Garcia, lawyer for two of the 11 foreigners jailed under the old measures, said the new laws were no improvement. “It’s still total loss of liberty, and total loss of liberty without due process is exactly what the Law Lords ruled is wrong,” she said. “It used to be foreigners. It can be absolutely anyone now.” Home Secretary Charles Clarke, who announced the new powers, said the targets could include the four freed Guantanamo men. “The individuals from Guantanamo are British nationals, so there isn’t any power to do anything but what we’ve done (release them),” he told BBC radio. “That’s precisely the reason why I made the announcement yesterday that we need to have a regime to deal with UK nationals as well.” The four were the last of nine Britons who returned from Guantanamo Bay after years in US custody without charge. The Guantanamo detainees are widely regarded in Britain as victims of American injustice, causing political harm to Blair for his firm support of US President George W Bush. The decision by police to treat them as suspects on their return also angered Britain’s large Muslim community.

Belgian School Accepts French Veil Refugee

BRUSSELS – A 12-year-old French girl who was expelled from school for wearing a headscarf is to be educated in Belgium, it emerged on Wednesday. Hilal was excluded from her school in the east of France because she refused to take off her Islamic headscarf, which has now be banned in schools by the French authorities. She will now attend a Belgian boarding school that allows more religious freedom, said her lawyer, Mrs Boukara.