Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Free Ashraf Al-Jailani, Support Michele Swensen

Ashraf Al-Jailani is a Yemeni-born permanent legal resident of the United States. Al-Jailani married Michele Swensen, an American, in February 1996. They have three children, now ages 3 (Sami, who will be 4 on June 17), 5 (Layla,), and 7 (Amina). On October 23, 2002, Al-Jailani was arrested at his job, the Akron-based GOJO Industries' Cuyahoga Falls "soap-manufacturing plant where he'd worked as a quality-control chemist for more than two years" (Tiffani Helberg/Ohio News Network, "Wife Still Fights for Muslim Man's Justice," Columbus Dispatch, February 25, 2004, p. C5), on the pretext that "the appeal of a deportation order stemming from a domestic violence incident almost three years earlier had been denied," using the 1996 Immigration Act, even though "al-Jailani had been pardoned by Ohio Gov. Robert Taft in 2001 (Lauri Lebo, "Yemeni Man Still in York Jail; For Second Time, Judge Orders Man Out on Bail; Appeal Pending," York Dispatch, December 10, 2003). Five minutes later, six FBI agents showed up at Al-Jailani and Swensen's house to search it, saying that they found Al-Jailani's business card in the wallet of a suspected Al-Qaeda money launderer.

Al-Jailani has been imprisoned without charges ever since. The NewStandard reports that "Al-Jailani's FBI file, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, revealed that the government has no record of having investigated him" ("FOI Request Reveals FBI Never Investigated Yemeni for Terror Ties," June 2, 2004).

First in March 2003 and again in December 2003, U.S. Immigration Court Judge Walt Durling ordered Al-Jailani freed on bond, finding the government's "evidence" inadequate: "'If one steps back a moment and examines the government's theory, there is no direct evidence linking respondent to terrorism, only certain indirect 'links' to others known or suspected of being associated with terrorists.' Durling expressed surprise that the FBI has not interrogated Al-Jailani since his arrest in October 2002. When asked why, Charnesky said the bureau assumed Al-Jailani would simply lie. The judge found this answer strange" (Karen R. Long, "Judge Orders Kent Man Freed; U.S. Blocks Order," Plain Dealer, December 5, 2003, p. B1). By now, "Durling has ordered on three occasions that Al-Jailani be released on a $1,500 bond, but the federal government has blocked his release, appealing each decision" (Stephen Dyer, "Detainee, Children Still Apart: U.S. Refuses to Let Jailed Former Kent Man Go to Portage Custody Hearing," Akron Beacon Journal, April 16, 2004). Judge "Durling issued his third order releasing Al-Jailani on March 23: (Dyer, April 16, 2004).

The government's detention of Al-Jailani has taken a heavy toll on his family: "Swensen said Al-Jailani is limited to one phone call every other week. Because he was the family's sole breadwinner, she's now scraping by on government assistance and can't afford to visit him in prison. . . . Swensen said she has battled depression since her husband's arrest. One of the lowest points, she said, came last summer when her condition worsened and she had to spend two months in the hospital. Because of her absence, she lost custody of the children" (Helberg, February 25, 2004). Her nightmare has not come to an end:
The children of a former Kent man of Yemeni descent being detained by the federal government will remain in the custody of Portage County authorities until the man's wife can demonstrate she is successfully undergoing psychological treatment for severe depression.

The county agreed to an accelerated reunification plan for the family, which is likely to not include its father for quite some time. . . .

The Department of Homeland Security declined Al-Jailani's request to be transported from Pennsylvania to Portage County so he could be present for Monday's hearing regarding his children. The department declined the request even though the Portage County Jail, which holds federal prisoners from time to time, is located next door to the Portage County Juvenile Court where Monday's hearing took place.

The hearing was shortened because county authorities agreed to drop the allegations of neglect and abuse against Al-Jailani's wife, Michele Swensen, which could have led to the couple's children becoming wards of the state.

Instead, in a sort of plea bargain, the children were declared `"dependent," which means the three children -- ages 3, 5, and 7 -- lack the proper support they need due to their mother's mental condition and are in danger of suffering abuse or neglect if they are left in her care.

Juvenile Court Magistrate James Aylward cited Swensen's "mental health issues" and Al-Jailani's "detainment" in making his decision. . . .

Swensen was hospitalized a couple of months ago for severe depression, which she claims was brought on by her husband's continued detention. That detention also means the children must remain in foster care because Al-Jailani can't receive custody while he's in jail.

Instead, Swensen will have to get a psychological evaluation and undergo a treatment regimen that will include drug testing to ensure she takes her prescribed medication.

Aylward said during Monday's hearing that if Swensen followed the plan, she could have supervised visitation of the children before the proceedings' next hearing in about 30 days, during which the family's case management plan will be detailed. . . . (Stephen Dyer, "Detainee's Kids Stay in Foster Care," Akron Beacon Journal, May 4, 2004)
What can you do to help free Ashraf Al-Jailani and restore their children to Al-Jailani and Michele Swensen?

Click on the link to sign a petition to Release Ashraf Al-Jailani from His Unjust Detention.

Michele Swensen is burdened by over $30,000 in legal fees. To make contributions to Ashraf Al-Jailani's legal defense fund, go to the Help Ashraf website and click on the link "Make a Donation."

If you cannot donate online, send your contributions to:
Michele Swensen, 1817 Mohican Place, Kent, OH 44240

For more information, contact Swensen at enigmatik2 at

To contact Ashraf Al-Jailani's attorney Farhad Sethna, visit "Farhad Sethna's
Immigration Page."

"Ashraf Al-Jailani and his American wife, Michele Swensen, at home in Kent, Ohio. Swensen, a Christian, said her husband, a Muslim, harbors no intent of harming anyone" ("FBI Keeps Yemeni Jailed: Federal Agents Accuse Him of Being a Terrorist but Offer No Documentation," York Daily Record, April 22, 2004)

1 comment:

enigmatik2 said...

Thank you for posting the story about me and my husband, Ashraf Al-Jailani. I wish people could see the terrible things that are happening not only to my husband, but to over 8,000 Arab men in this country of mine. They have been rounded up and detained for two or three years now without ever being charged with a crime.

Thank you,
Michele Swensen Al-Jailani