A Palestinian man held for four years at an Elizabeth detention center won
a key court victory in his bid for release earlier this month, only to have
immigration agents unsuccessfully attempt to put him on a departing cargo
ship without a passport yesterday.
The government's unusual, unannounced plan to deport Salim Yassir, 27, on a
ship docked at the Port of Baltimore was scuttled Thursday evening when
attorneys representing ship owner Wallenius Lines objected, according to
lawyers representing Yassir and the shipping company.
The ship was headed to England, and without a passport or travel documents,
Wallenius Lines officials feared Yassir would be stuck living on the ship
if British officials denied him entry.
"It would have been a difficult situation, to put it mildly," said Frank
Turner, a Manhattan attorney representing Wallenius Lines.
The move comes three weeks before a crucial court deadline in the
government's effort to keep Yassir behind bars.
A federal appeals court ruled Aug. 9 that the government's earlier
arguments for Yassir's detention were no longer valid. The two sides are
due back in court by Sept. 13.
"The government was out of options," said Yassir's attorney, Joshua
Bardavid. "They had to go to a judge and get a final ruling in the case. So
instead of releasing him, they try to take him in the middle of the night
and put him on a ship...