Friday, February 10, 2006

New arrival sees US after 8 years in jail

This story helps to illustrate some problems all of the western countries have when dealing with people fleeing persecution in the Islamic world (link)

WASHINGTON - An Egyptian who spent almost eight years in American jails without ever being convicted of a crime walked free yesterday after a federal judge ordered his release over the objections of the United States Government.

Sameh Khouzam boarded a plane in Cairo to seek political asylum in the United States on February 11, 1998. He was arrested at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York and was held for seven years and 361 days. He was released from the Bergen County Jail in New Jersey on the order of Judge Harry Cavanaugh.

Asylum-seekers arriving without proper papers are routinely jailed while their cases are heard and they lack many of the rights afforded US citizens, including access to a lawyer. At least one other detainee, Peter Ali, who came from Guyana, has been held in jail for more than five years. Detention that lasts for months or years is not uncommon.

The US Government still wants to deport Khouzam. He once worked as an accountant at the US Embassy in Cairo. In 1997, he fled with his wife to escape religious persecution against Coptic Christians.

He returned to Cairo in 1998 to bring his mother to the US, but his visa was revoked while his plane was in the air when Egyptian authorities told the US he was charged with a murder in Egypt. Khouzam denied the charges. His mother was eventually granted political asylum.

I have no idea if the charges the Egyptian government makes against Mr. Khouzam are true, but there have been several cases like this (in Canada in January [Link]). People fleeing from persecution are hampered by immigration policies.

I understand that we need to be careful with our policies, but a government that does not want its' human rights violations exposed, such as Egypt, will try and prevent people from leaving. Until the Western governments take a hard-line stand on Islamic states persecuting their non-Islamic populations, this will continue to happen.

Take a hard-line stand? Until they admit that people are being tortured and killed. Until we open our eyes and admit that Christians can and do suffer in other countries. Until we, as a people and a media, pay more attention to innocent people dying than Brittany Spears...this will continue to be a series of shameful moments.

1 comment:

Egypeter said...

Thanks Dave - Isn't that story crazy? Where are the human rights groups that are ranting and raving about Guantonomo Bay? Why was this guy not afforded an attorney...I'm pretty sure Muburak's despotic government doesn't want him out of Egypt. Sad story but thank God he's out now.
It's crazy how some radical muslims come into this country while defenseless Christians are denied entry. I'm also referring to that Canadian Case.

Anyway, take care