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Judge Says Iraqi Assyrian Detainees Should Have Bond Hearings
By Kim Kozlowski

A federal judge gave a victory to Iraqis nationals who have been fighting deportation while incarcerated when he ruled late Tuesday that they can be granted individual bond hearings -- and possibly freed while their legal cases continue.

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith cited the Constitution in granting a process for the 274 Iraqi nationals who have languished for months in prison to be given bond hearings, saying they can return to their lives while the legal process unfolds unless the government demonstrates that the individuals pose a danger to the community or are flight risks.

"Our legal tradition rejects warehousing human beings while their legal rights are being determined, without an opportunity to persuade a judge that the norm of monitored freedom should be followed," Goldsmith wrote. "The principle is familiar to all in the context of the criminal law, where even a heinous criminal -- whether a citizen or not -- enjoys the right to seek pre-trial release.

"In the civil context of our case, this principle applies with at least equal force," Goldsmith continued. "In either context, the principle illustrates our nation's historic commitment to individual human dignitiy -- a core value that the Constitituon protects by preserving liberty through the due process of law."

Khaalid Walls, Detroit spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said his office would not be able to immediately comment.

But hailing the decision was Martin Manna, president of the Chaldean Community Foundation, a social and human services organization in Sterling Heights.

"It's a step in the right direction," said Manna. "These folks have been detained for six months and there is no clear indication when this legal battle will be finished."

Also applauding Goldsmith's ruling was the ALCU of Michigan, which has been leading the legal battle for the Iraqi detainees.

"The government cannot just lock people up and hold them indefinitely without reason. As the judge made clear, everyone who is put behind bars is entitled to their day in court," said Miriam Aukerman, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan.


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