News

The Iraqi Detainees in California

Iraq News 07 May 1998

By Laurie Mylroie

The central focus of Iraq News is the tension between the considerable, proscribed WMD capabilities that Iraq is holding on to and its increasing stridency that it has complied with UNSCR 687 and it is time to lift sanctions. If you wish to receive Iraq News by email, a service which includes full-text of news reports not archived here, send your request to Laurie Mylroie .



  Earlier this week, the Jim Lehrer Newshour, reported on the six Iraqi 
opposition members jailed in California and facing deportation. The six 
were among 6,500 Iraqis evacuated by the US following Saddam's Aug 31 96 
assault on Irbil.  They were taken to Guam, where they were held until 
after the 1996 presidential elections, and then to the US.

   In mid-March, an INS judge ordered the six deported to Iraq, although 
neither they nor their lawyers were ever allowed to see the evidence 
against them.  The editors of the NYT wrote, Mar 15, "Imagine a trial in 
which the prosecution secretly presents evidence that the defendants and 
their lawyers have no right to see.  The judge's ruling against the 
defendants is classified.  The government will only say that the men are 
considered a danger to national security and must leave the country.  It 
sounds like the former Soviet Union, but the rough equivalent of this 
case just happened in the United States."  The editors of the Wash Post, 
Mar 23, wrote similarly, "The government should not contemplate taking 
an adverse action against someone—and sending these men to face 
execution at the hands of Saddam Hussein would certainly qualify—without 
allowing that person a chance to rebut even a summary of the evidence 
against him."

   As the Newshour reported, following that decision, "The legal team 
brought in R. James Woolsey. ... As a former head of the CIA, Woolsey 
was privy to the nation's top secrets.  He still holds a security 
clearance.  In March, he came from Washington to meet with the Iraqis . 
.. Woolsey signed on as the Iraqis co-counsel and filed a motion to 
obtain the classified evidence." 

  As Woolsey told the Newshour, "I believe whether it's me or someone 
else, that an attorney with security clearances, in order for fairness 
to be done, ought to be able to review this material on behalf of these 
men."

   But INS general counsel told the Newshour that "the INS has no 
intention of providing Woolsey with a classified document because his 
clients have no legal standing in this country." Now, it is not a 
question of the sensitivity of the information, as it once appeared; it 
is entirely a procedural issue.  The Iraqis are being "excluded," as if 
they had been stopped at the border and had never entered the US, rather 
than "deported," in which case they would have significant rights that 
they do not have now.

   As Woolsey suggested, "If the government doesn't want to share the 
classified information with counsel who are cleared, it would be my very 
strong suspicion it's because the government has made some serious 
mistakes and has something to hide."

   And Woolsey challenged INS' justification for its proceedings, 
explaining that the Iraqis "were brought to Guam, a territorial 
possession of the United States, by the US Government, and they were 
taken from Guam to California by the US Government.  And the INS is 
maintaining this legal position that they have not been admitted to the 
United States, so it won't have to grant them any procedural rights of 
the sort that an individual does have if he's been admitted but then is 
in risk of being deported."

   A seventh Iraqi was given asylum in March, after having been 
imprisoned for nearly a year.  He was never formally charged with being 
a national security risk, but was detained because the INS thought that 
it might do so and the case required further clarification.  

    Hashim Hawlery is an Iraqi Kurd, who had been a member of the KDP 
[Kurdistan Democratic Party], from 1968 to 1993, before shifting to the 
INC and then to the INA, writing for its newspaper.  As a memo, written 
by defense lawyer Niels Frenzen explained, "The INS' principal challenge 
to Hawlery's credibility was revealed when Hawlery was asked on 
cross-examination about his membership in the 'KLM.'  Hawlery responded 
he had never heard of the 'KLM.'  [At one point during the cross- 
examination Hawlery whispered to me that KLM was a Dutch airline and 
asked me if I thought the INS was asking about the airline.]  The INS 
prosecutor accused Hawlery of telling the FBI in Guam that he had been a 
member of the 'KLM' and that Hawlery had repeatedly stated this during 
three days of questioning in Guam.

   As Frenzen explained, "The INS prosecutor stated that the 'KLM' was 
the 'Kurdish Liberation Movement organization' and repeatedly asked 
Halwery about the nature of his relationship with this organization.  
Hawlery testified that he has indeed been involved with the Kurdish 
'movement' and the 'struggle for independence or autonomy' and he was 
sure he has used terms like the 'Kurdish national movement' and may even 
have said the term 'Kurdish liberation movement' but that he had never 
said 'KLM' because such an organization does not exist as far as he 
knows.

   "The INS called two government witnesses to impeach Hawlery's 
testimony . . . The first witness was FBI Special Agent Jennifer Rettig 
who had worked in the Chicago FBI office on the Terrorism Task Force for 
the past eight years.   . . . Rettig interviewed Hawlery over the course 
of three days. . . . She testified that she felt Halwery was 'evasive' 
and was possibly trying to be 'deceptive.'   And that part of the reason 
she reached this conclusion was because it required three interviews 
with Hawlery to get his 'history.'  On cross examination she conceded 
that Hawlery, at age 47, was almost twice the average age of the 191 
other evacuees she interviewed and that most of the other evacuees had 
worked in the opposition for anywhere from several months to several 
years, whereas Hawlery has been involved in the Kurdish movement or in 
Iraqi opposition groups for almost 30 years.  She stated one of the 
reasons she concluded Hawlery was being evasive was because he provided 
her with large amounts of information about his activities.

   "Rettig testified that Hawlery had informed her he had traveled to 
Baghdad in late 1991 and early 1992 during the post 1991 uprising 
negotiations between the Kurds and Saddam Hussein.  Rettig was unaware 
of any such negotiations . . . Rettig expressed doubt over Hawlery's 
testimony that he had stayed with relatives in Baghdad who were Kurds.  
Rettig did not believe Kurds lived anywhere in Iraq other than northern 
Iraq.  {ED: Nearly 1/4 of Iraq's Kurds live in Baghdad.]

   "Rettig testified that after interviewing Hawlery about the 'KLM' she 
asked her military interpreter to 'go down the hall' and get information 
about the 'KLM.'  After resisting explanation what or who 'was down the 
hall,' the agent testified that CIA officials were down the hall from 
her office . . .

   "As a result of Hawlery's affiliation with an unknown or fictitious 
organization known as the 'KLM' and as a result of Hawlery's presence in 
Baghdad, Rettig decided to label Hawlery as a problem case . . .

   "The INS called as a second rebuttal witness, Staff Sergeant Hisham 
B. Shaarawy, US Marine Corps.  . . Shaarawy testified that he had served 
as the interpreter for Special Agent Rettig's three interviews with 
Hawlery.  He testified that Rettig would ask a question in English and 
that he would then interpret the question into Arabic for Hawlery.  
Shaarawy testified that after Hawlery would respond to the interpreted 
question, Shaarawy would 'ask Hawlery to elaborate.'  Shaarawy would 
then 'review back to Hawlery' what Hawlery had said and would then 'tell 
agent Rettig would Halwery said.'  [We have received consistent reports 
from our other clients that this non-standard form of interpretation 
occurred during their INS and FBI interviews and that military 
interpreters often seemed to be framing questions that had not been 
asked by the FBI or INS and that the evacuees responses were being 
summarized.]

   Upon further questioning, Shaarawy testified that Shaarawy himself 
had created the initials 'KLM' and that as far as he could recall 
Hawlery referred to his past activities as work or involvement with the 
'movement,' 'the Kurdish movement,' 'the Kurdish liberation movement,' 
or the 'Kurdish movement for liberation'  Sharawway testified that there 
were many organizations in northern Iraq and that everyone would 
frequently refer to groups by using acronyms."

    Another detaineee, Mohammad Qaisar, a member of the Iraqi National 
Congress, was originally charged with being a national security risk.  
The charges against him were dropped and he was granted asylum in 
January when it came out, during a hearing, that the Gov't had 
mistranslated his INC identity card.  The Gov't claimed that he lied 
about when he had joined the INC.  The judge asked that a translator 
look at the card.  It turned out that the Gov't had made an error in 
transcribing the year from Arabic to English numbers.

   Also, charges were recently dropped against Mehdia Ali Alzybydy, the 
estranged wife of an INC member in Damascus.  The charges were dropped 
on the day the Gov't was scheduled to begin presenting its secret 
evidence.  No explanation was given for dropping the charges, as with 
the two other cases in which the charges were dropped.

   The CIA effort in Iraq, which collapsed in Aug 96, when Saddam's 
Republican Guards were allowed to attack Irbil while Clinton was on the 
campaign trail, was likened, in the aftermath of the debacle, to the Bay 
of Pigs.  Part of the administration, and agency's, response has been to 
blame the victim.  Hence the fate of these individuals.  If the Govt's 
evidence against the remaining six is like the evidence against those 
released, Mr. Woolsey et.al. will almost certainly have a difficult time 
obtaining it, even as "Iraq News" can only salute them and wish them the 
best.


MEMO, IRAQIS DEFENSE TEAM FROM: Niels Frenzen DATE: 15 March 1998 RE: Hashim Qadir Hawlery (Member: Iraqi National Accord; Journalist: Baghdad Newspaper) Hawlery was granted asylum, over the INS' objection, by Immigration Judge D.D. Sitgraves, San Pedro Immigration Court, on March 13, 1998 after a three day administrative trial. INS has stated it will appeal the judge's decision. INS has thirty days in which to file a notice of appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals, Department of Justice. Hawlery was released from the San Pedro INS Detention Center (Los Angeles) on the evening of March 13th and has been reunited with his family in Los Angeles where they were settled in March 1997 by the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement. Hawlery has a wife and seven children. Hawlery was evacuated with his wife and children from Iraq. He was transported from Guam to California in March 1997. The INS granted asylum to his wife and seven children on March 28, 1997. The grant of asylum to his family was based upon Hawlery's activities in the Iraqi opposition. Hawlery was never formally served with any document charging him with being a national security risk, as were the eight other INC and INA members who were detained with him. INS informed us that it was detaining him because it thought it might bring a national security charge and that his case required further clarification. It was not until November 5, 1997 that INS informed us and the Immigration Court that it would not pursue national security allegations in his case. The Immigration Judge issued an Order on November 17, 1997 finding Hawlery not to be a security risk. INS subsequently set a $10,000 bond in Hawlery's case. We were able to secure approximately $3,000 in commitments from the family and the community, but were never able to post the $10,000 bond. Hawlery is from Massif Salahuddin, northern Iraq, and has resided in northern Iraq for his entire life. He was a member of the KDP from approximately 1968 until 1993. He worked with the INC/IBC in 1993 and 1994. He joined the INA in 1994 and began writing for the INA's Baghdad Newspaper in late 1994. Hawlery's administrative trial on his asylum application took place on January 11, 12, 13, 1998. INS cross-examination of Hawlery revealed INS had a very limited understanding of the Kurdish struggle for autonomy or independence within Iraq and demonstrated complete ignorance of the various uprisings and revolutions and periods where the Kurdish portion of Iraq was governed with varying level of autonomy (including de facto independence) from Baghdad. The INS' principal challenge to Hawlery's credibility was revealed when Hawlery was asked on cross-examination about his membership in the "KLM." Hawlery responded he had never heard of the "KLM." (At one point during the cross-examination Hawlery whispered to me that KLM was a Dutch airline and asked me if I thought the INS was asking about the airline.) The INS prosecutor accused Hawlery of telling the FBI in Guam that he had been a member of the "KLM" and that Hawlery had repeatedly stated this during three days of questioning in Guam. The INS prosecutor stated that the "KLM" was the "Kurdish Liberation Movement organization" and repeatedly asked Hawlery about the nature of his relationship with this organization. Hawlery testified that he has indeed been involved with the Kurdish "movement" and the "struggle for independence or autonomy" and he was sure he has used terms like the "Kurdish national movement" and may even have said the terms "Kurdish liberation movement" but that he had never said "KLM" because such an organization does not exist as far as he knows. The INS called two government witnesses to impeach Hawlery's testimony on the "KLM" issue. The first witness was FBI Special Agent Jennifer Rettig who has worked in the Chicago FBI office on the Terrorism Task Force for the past eight years. She testified she had received briefings from the CIA after being temporarily assigned to Guam in January 1997. The briefings dealt with the history of the region and the various political parties and organizations. Special Agent Rettig conducted approximately 120 interviews during her six week assignment to Guam. Rettig interviewed Hawlery over the course of three days, January 27, February 3, and February 5, 1997. She testified that she felt Hawlery was "evasive" and was possibly trying to be "deceptive." And that part of the reason she reached this conclusion was because it required three interviews with Hawlery to get his "story." On cross examination she conceded that Hawlery, at age 47, was almost twice the average age of the 119 other evacuees she interviewed and that most of the other evacuees had worked in the opposition for anywhere from several months to several years, whereas Hawlery has been involved in the Kurdish movement or in Iraqi opposition groups for almost 30 years. She stated one of the reasons she concluded Hawlery was being evasive was because he provided her with large amounts of information about his activities. Rettig testified that Hawlery had repeatedly referenced his involvement since 1968 with the "KLM" and that Hawlery had never mentioned that he had been a member of the KDP. Rettig testified that Hawlery had informed her he had traveled to Baghdad in late 1991 and early 1992 during the post 1991 uprising negotiations between the Kurds and Saddam Hussein. Rettig was unaware of any such negotiations and expressed doubt as to whether Kurds ever traveled to Baghdad for any reason. Rettig expressed doubt over Hawlery's testimony that he had stayed with relatives in Baghdad who were Kurds. Rettig did not believe Kurds lived anywhere in Iraq other than northern Iraq. Rettig testified that after interviewing Hawlery about the "KLM" she asked her military interpreter to "go down the hall" and get information about the "KLM." After resisting explaining what or who "was down the hall," the agent testified that CIA officials were down the hall from her office. Rettig testified that her military interpreter returned and reported that the CIA had never heard of the "KLM." When questioned why she never asked Hawlery to elaborate or provide more information on the "KLM," Rettig responded that she did not want to "offend" Hawlery. As a result of Hawlery's affiliation with an unknown or fictitious organization known as the "KLM" and as a result of Hawlery's presence in Baghdad, Rettig decided to label Hawlery as a problem case and completed the so-called "Pink Sheet" indicating Hawlery was a problem case. The Pink Sheet was a form used by the FBI to flag special problem cases. The INS called as a second rebuttal witness, Staff Sergeant Hisham B. Shaarawy, U.S. Marine Corps. The Staff Sergeant is an Interrogatory/Linguist and a veteran of the Persian Gulf War where he participated in the interrogations of over 1,000 Prisoners of War. Shaarawy testified that he had served as the interpreter for Special Agent Rettig's three interviews with Hawlery. He testified that Rettig would ask a question in English and that he would then interpret the question into Arabic for Hawlery. Shaarawy testified that after Hawlery would respond to the interpreted question, Shaarawy would "ask Hawlery to elaborate." Shaarawy would then "review back to Hawlery" what Hawlery had said and would then "tell agent Rettig what Hawlery said." (We have received consistent reports from our other clients that this non-standard form of interpretation occurred during their INS and FBI interviews and that military interpreters often seemed to be framing questions that had not been asked by the FBI or INS and that the evacuees responses were being summarized.) Upon further questioning, Shaarawy testified that Shaarawy himself had created the initials "KLM" and that as far as he could recall Hawlery referred to his past activities as work or involvement with the "movement," the "Kurdish movement," the Kurdish liberation movement," or the "Kurdish movement for liberation." Shaarawy testified that there were many organizations in northern Iraq and that everyone would frequently refer to groups by using acronyms. Shaarawy also testified that Hawlery had told him about being a member of the KDP. Shaarawy could not remember if he had told the FBI agent that Hawlery had been a member of the KDP. This information provided by the military interpreter was revealed during the INS' questioning of the military interpreter. We did not ask any questions on cross-examination. It would appear that no one in the government had ever spoken with the military interpreter in any depth until he was called to the witness stand in Immigration Court. In granting Hawlery's asylum application, the Immigration Judge stated as follows: "The government's two witnesses clearly did not establish any inconsistencies in the Applicant's case. There were inconsistencies between the two government witnesses." "Mr. Hawlery's testimony was extremely detailed, consistent, at times verbose. He has left no stone unturned in providing this Court with evidence in support of his case. He went into details regarding all of his activities going back to 1968." At the conclusion of the judge's decision, Hawlery asked to make a statement and the judge allowed him to do so. He praised the INS prosecutor as an honorable representative of the U.S. Government and thanked the INS for providing him with medical care during his past year of incarceration. He also thanked the Government for providing a safe haven for his family.