A coalition of Chicago-area legal organizations today opened a
telephone hotline for Arabs and Muslims designated for surveillance and
questioning by federal law enforcement authorities in a new round of
interviews underway across the country. FBI Director Robert Mueller and
Attorney General John Ashcroft recently announced their intent to direct a
series of dragnet-like interviews involving individuals from the Muslim and
Arab community across the United States.
Individuals designated for an interview by the FBI who wish to contact a
volunteer lawyer can call the ACLU of Illinois hotline at 800-572-1092 or
the Muslim Civil Rights Center hotline at 866-440-6272.
The plan for questioning Muslims and Arabs is reminiscent of programs
conducted by the Justice Department in late 2001 and 2002, in which the
Department attempted to locate and interview eight thousand (8,000) Arabs
and Muslims without any indication that these individuals had any
information that might be helpful in the fight against terrorism. The
series of interviews never resulted in a single arrest. Rather, the
process created distrust and fear throughout immigrant communities.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, the Chicago Chapter of the
National Lawyers Guild, the Muslim Bar Association and the Muslim Civil
Rights Center announced that they would again join together to provide
basic legal information and representation -- at no cost -- to any Muslim
or Arab who requested such assistance in the Chicago area.
"People targeted for investigation are undoubtedly in need of legal
counsel," said Harvey Grossman, legal director for the ACLU of Illinois in
announcing the formation of the coalition. "It is in the highest tradition
of the American bar that these organizations and attorneys step forward and
offer their services without compensation to these individuals. In so
doing, these attorneys also fulfill our fundamental constitutional values."
"MCRC's collaboration with the ACLU and other groups will greatly benefit
the area Muslims and Arabs who are concerned about being approached by law
enforcement agents and need legal representation during questioning," said
MCRC President Rasheed Ahmed.
The coalition will provide lawyers with a broad range of experience across
the Chicago area who will offer legal services pro bono to persons
contacted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or other law enforcement
agencies acting on behalf of the federal government, in connection with the
CONTACT: Edwin C. Yohnka of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, 312-201-9740, ext. 305 or 847-687-1129 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org