Yemeni man accused of having links to al-Qaida appears in court
By MARTHA RAFFAELE, Associated Press Writer
YORK, Pa. (AP) - An immigration judge postponed a decision on whether an Ohio resident from Yemen jailed on suspicion that he has links to al-Qaida terrorist organization associates should be held without bail while he awaits a deportation hearing.
Ashraf al-Jailani, a 39-year-old geochemist and permanent legal resident of the United States, appeared at a hearing Thursday before Immigration Judge Walter Durling.
Durling said he would not make a decision on the case Thursday because the government immigration attorney, Jeff Bubier, was on vacation Thursday and unable to attend.
Although no charges have been filed against al-Jailani, the federal government kept him into custody as it investigates whether he has terrorist ties. Al-Jailani, who is married to an Ohio woman and has three children, has spent the past nine months in the Berks County Prison outside Reading.
Durling did not set a new hearing date, but said early October would likely be the earliest opportunity for another hearing.
Al-Jailani expressed concern about the timing, noting that a juvenile court hearing in Ohio is scheduled for Aug. 26 to determine the placement of the couple's children -- ages 3, 4 and 6.
They have been in foster care since June 2, when his wife, Michelle Swenson, was hospitalized for depression; she was released earlier this month.
"Please consider my family, my children," he said.
"I'm sorry that's happening, but I'm only dealing with the immigration case," Durling responded.
In March, Durling ordered al-Jailani released on $1,500 bail, but the Department of Homeland Security blocked his order, and a government immigration lawyer filed a motion in July asking Durling to revoke bail.
The lawyer cited a sworn statement from Swenson that she feared her husband, plus new FBI evidence that he made cell phone calls as late as March 2, 2002, to a number also dialed by a Yemeni man in the United States convicted of laundering money for al-Qaida.
Durling discussed how he would proceed in future hearings with Al-Jailani's lawyer, Farhad Sethna, and Bill Lore, an immigration lawyer for the government.
A key witness will be Swenson, who has since recanted her sworn statement, claiming that she gave it under "undue pressure" from federal agents, Lore said.
"The posture of the spouse has gone to the other side," Lore said.
Durling said he also would need to hear testimony from any psychiatrists or psychologists who have been treating Swenson.
"There's a question of her mental state. I know she's been hospitalized for mental problems, or recently released," he said.
Sethna asked if the court would accept an affidavit from the attending psychiatrist, instead of testimony in person.
"We don't have the means to expend for travel" from Ohio to Pennsylvania, said Sethna, who participated in the hearing via speakerphone from his office in Akron, Ohio.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)