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Muslim fundraiser freed after 2-year lockup

The top fundraiser for an Islamic charity walked out of a detention facility more than two years after the government claimed his group had ties to terrorism.
Abdel-Jabbar Hamdan
Holy Land Foundation top fundraiser Abdel-Jabbar Hamdan is released Monday after a two year detention at the Terminal Island federal detention facility in San Pedro, Calif. A court rejected a government request to keep the top fundraiser for an Islamic charity incarcerated. The government alleges the charity has ties to terrorism.Damian Dovarganes / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The top fundraiser for an Islamic charity walked out of a detention facility to cheers from a few dozen supporters, more than two years after the government claimed his group had ties to terrorism.

“No words can describe how I’m feeling right now. I’m ecstatic,” Abdel-Jabbar Hamdan, who has never been charged with terrorism, said Monday as he left the federal detention center with his wife and five children.

Hamdan, who founded a mosque in Anaheim, was arrested on immigration charges in July 2004 as federal authorities unsealed an indictment against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. The government charged that the Texas-based charity funneled millions to the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Hamdan was convicted of overstaying a student visa he got 27 years ago and ordered deported. The Holy Land Foundation’s president, chairman and director of endowments were charged with terrorism-related crimes.

Hamdan had requested that he be released on bond while he fought the immigration charge, but the request was denied for nearly two years by immigration judges until U.S. District Judge Terry Hatter ordered him freed last week.

Hatter’s move was based on the recommendations of a magistrate judge’s report calling the government’s conduct “dilatory” and the amount of time it took authorities to prepare certain court transcripts “troubling.”

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday rejected a last-ditch government request to keep him locked up.

U.S.: 'Mr. Hamdan is deportable'
Hamdan was released without bond but must wear an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet and check in regularly with authorities.

“I’ve renewed my faith in the justice system in this country,” Hamdan told The Associated Press moments after his release.

After he was released, federal authorities promised to continue to press to remove him from the United States.

“Both the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals have previously held that Mr. Hamdan is deportable and subject to mandatory detention,” said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Hamdan, who was born in a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank, has acknowledged traveling around the country as a Holy Land fundraiser. He insists, however, he has no information to support allegations the group aided Hamas, which the United States has labeled a terrorist organization.

“My mission was purely humanitarian, to help the children and the disadvantaged people in Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and around the world,” he said during an earlier hearing.