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Co-Founder of Suspect Islamic Charity Asks for Asylum in US - 2002-10-23

The detained co-founder of an Islamic charity accused of funneling money to terrorists is asking for asylum in the United States. Rabih Haddad says he fears retribution if he is forced to return to his native Lebanon.

Rabih Haddad says he has spoken out against the al-Qaida terrorist network and the September 11 terrorist attacks, and he fears that could make him a target for persecution if he is deported to Lebanon.

The head of the Global Relief Foundation has been jailed since last December, when he was arrested at his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan for a visa violation. The same day Mr. Haddad was arrested, the U.S. government also raided Global Relief's offices in suburban Chicago and froze the charity's assets.

The Bush administration suspects Global Relief of having links to terrorism, but has filed no criminal charges against the organization or against Mr. Haddad. Both deny any links to terrorist groups.

The United States Immigration and Naturalization Service says Mr. Haddad should not be granted asylum, because he did not request it within a year of entering the United States.

Mr. Haddad's lawyer says his client can apply for asylum because the political climate in Lebanon has changed since Mr. Haddad left, and the publicity of his case might make him a target.

Mr. Haddad is also seeking asylum for his family. He made his asylum request in Detroit, where a United States immigration judge is considering whether to release him on bond while he contests efforts to deport him. The U.S. government is arguing against granting Mr. Haddad bond, saying it considers him a flight risk if he is released from jail.

Portions of Mr.Haddad's bond hearing have been closed to the public and the news media. The U.S. government says it wants to avoid releasing sensitive information from the hearings that could help terrorists.