Ashraf Al-Jailani, a 39-year-old Yemen-born geochemist from Ohio, has been jailed for more than 23 months without charges. His wife, Michele Swenson, spoke at the federal building on July 7 in Columbus, Ohio to expose another victim of the Bush administration’s great terror scare. As Michele tells it, her marriage to Ashraf was dramatically altered on October 23, 2002 when two immigration officers arrested her husband at his job at GoJo Industries in Akron. Simultaneously, six FBI agents raided the couple’s Kent apartment.

The FBI claimed the reason for the raid was that they found Al-Jailani’s business card in the wallet of a suspected Al Qaeda money-launderer. Michele explained that her husband was in the middle of a job search and had given away and mailed out hundreds of business cards. The FBI agent spent six hours confiscating papers, address books and copying computer files. The Cleveland FBI Bureau demanded that the Immigration Service neither deport nor allow bond for Al-Jailani on November 14, 2002.

On three separate occasions, Immigration Judge Walter Durling ruled that Al-Jailani had no ties to terrorism and should be released on the lowest possible bond. Judge Durling, in setting the bond at $1500, felt that there was only a “slight” chance that Al-Jailani would flee since he has a wife and three small children, Amina-7, Layla-6, and Sami-4.

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in Falls Church, Virginia also ruled that Al-Jailani had no ties to terrorism as alleged by the Department of Homeland Security. While the BIA agreed that Al-Jailani was not a terrorist, they did hold that he should be held without bond because he posed a threat to his wife Michele. The ruling was based on a December 1998 incident at a mall in Akron when the couple argued and Al-Jailani knocked his wife’s glasses off. He later pleaded “no contest” to the charge and completed anger management classes. On January 2, 2001, the Ohio Parole Board voted 8-0 to recommend that Governor Bob Taft grant Al-Jailani a full pardon for the domestic violence conviction. The Governor pardoned him a week later.

Despite Taft’s pardon, the BIA ordered Al-Jailani deported for his domestic violence conviction on September 23, 2002, one month before the FBI raid.

As Michele campaigns tirelessly for her husband’s release, the BIA is on record that Michele is being coerced by the small Arab community around Kent, Ohio. The couple was married in May 1996 and then Al-Jailani received his green card making him a lawful, permanent resident of the United States.

In March 2003, the Department of Homeland Security intervened to block Al-Jailani’s release, despite the fact that two courts had ruled he had no ties to terrorism. Judge Durling went so far as to write in April that the judges at the BIA were engaging in “abuse of discretion” by keeping Al-Jailani detained in York, Pennsylvania. A little over a month later, Michele was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital in Akron for depression and the couple’s children were subsequently sent into foster care.

Michele told the listeners on WVKO’s “Fight Back” radio show on July 8 that she has an Immigration form I-130 petition pending to release her husband and that she “loves him very much.” To help free Al-Jailani and give support to his family, contact:

Nuradin Abdi

Nuradin Abdi, the Columbus Somalian accused and imprisoned for allegedly conspiring to provide material support for terrorists, is residing in the Franklin County Jail awaiting trial. The Free Press has learned that the government is offering Abdi a five-year sentence in exchange for an admission that he was involved in a plot to blow up an Ohio shopping mall.

On the eve of a two-day fund-raising sweep through central Ohio in June 2004 by presidential hopeful Democratic Senator John Kerry, Attorney General John Ashcroft suddenly announced that “the American heartland was targeted for death and destruction by an Al-Qaeda cell.” Ashcroft fingered Abdi as the terrorist planning the act, though he had been in prison since November 2003 for an immigration violation.

Ohio’s Republican Governor Bob Taft issued a press release stating, “I’m pleased that the efforts of local, state and national law enforcement officials through the Joint Terrorism Task Force worked together to prevent what could have been a terrible act of terrorism.”

Abdi’s four-count indictment provides no details of any planned attack, but instead includes two counts of supporting terrorist activities and two counts of fraud and misuse of immigration travel documents.

Abdi’s bizarre court behavior was similar to that of Jose Padilla, the so-called “dirty bomber.” Both appeared to be deranged, jerking their heads violently and randomly and muttering. After being psychologically evaluated in Rochester, Minnesota, Abdi was cleared for trial in Columbus.

Jeff Gamso of the Ohio ACLU told the Free Press that his organization is interested in the question of how the detainees are being treated. He believes hundreds are being held in newly-built jails in small Ohio towns, most built by the Voinovich family, leased by the federal government.

Appears in Issue: