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Court blocks release of detainees' names

By The Associated Press

04.22.02

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NEWARK, N.J. — A state appeals court late last week granted a request by the U.S. Justice Department to keep the identities of post-Sept. 11 detainees secret while it appeals a lower court decision.

Superior Court Judge Arthur D'Italia had ordered the government to release the names of detainees in the Hudson and Passaic county jails by today.

But last week the Justice Department sought an extension and Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner James Ziglar issued an order forbidding county or local officials from releasing information about the detainees.

On April 18, lawyers for the Justice Department and the Newark chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union held a conference call with appellate court judges Howard Kestin and Edwin Alley.

According to the most recent INS count, there were 327 detainees in custody in mid-February, most of them in jails in northern New Jersey.

The Justice Department claims releasing the names could endanger national security and the safety of the detainees themselves.

In court papers, the ACLU asked the appellate judges to force the government to make the names public. The ACLU said it wants the names so it can offer detainees legal representation and assess how well they are being treated while in custody.

"We were pleased they granted the stay, and we will continue to move forward in this case," said Mark Corallo, spokesman for the Justice Department.

Deborah Jacobs, spokeswoman for the Newark ACLU chapter, said the court order did provide some protections for detainees. The judges said none of the detainees could be removed from their current locations unless they agreed to it with the assistance of an attorney.

Oral arguments for the appeal were scheduled for May 20.

Earlier last week, civil rights attorneys sued Attorney General John Ashcroft and other U.S. officials, alleging widespread abuse of hundreds of Middle Eastern men detained on immigration violations after Sept. 11.

Update

Government: Releasing detainees' names could be 'dangerous'
Justice Department tells N.J. appeals panel that disclosing identities could deter some detainees from cooperating, could let terrorists know what information has been gathered.  05.22.02

Previous

Appeals court allows release of immigration-hearing transcripts
Meanwhile, INS orders state, local governments not to release names of those detained since Sept. 11.  04.19.02

Related

N.J. judge orders counties to release detainees' names
ACLU representative says ruling is first of its kind to chip away at veil of secrecy surrounding terror probe.  03.28.02

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