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Brookline TAB
Brookline, Massachusetts

Fourth of July Ironies

Dennis Fox

July 11, 2002

I was out of the country on Independence Day. On the Fourth, we watched a handful of US tourists try to set off fireworks on a New Brunswick beach, their efforts washed out by an approaching thunderstorm. Fortunately, my daughter's old enough now to understand that blowing something up to celebrate patriotism doesn't help transform the United States into the country many of its citizens like to imagine it already is.

The aptly named USA Patriot Act, enacted after September 11th's horror, made inevitable new assaults on individual rights. The president and congress cynically used the public's fear of terrorism to escalate more than two centuries of efforts, from the earliest days of the Republic, to clamp down on dissent and individual liberties. Unlimited detention without legal representation, enhanced eavesdropping, the prospect of secret trials, even warnings to librarians not to divulge that the feds want information about individual reading habits -- we now proudly mimic countries we used to dismiss as totalitarian.

Things were bad even before September. It was just over a year ago that police at Brookline's Israel Independence Day Celebration arrested Palestinian protestor Amer Jubran on a bogus assault charge. Jubran had to endure half a year of legal proceedings before being vindicated.

Today, with the Patriot Act, the authorities have bigger weapons.

At the end of May, Cambridge police picked up another Palestinian activist on traffic violations. They claim they were suspicious of wires Jaoudat Abouazza had in his car, which Abouazza says he needed to fix his stereo.

Police were also suspicious of something else: leaflets advertising a legal, peaceful pro-Palestinian rally outside this year's Israel Independence Day Celebration (which was moved from Brookline to Boston).

Cambridge charged Abouazza with half a dozen infractions, then let the FBI question him all weekend without his lawyer present. The judge soon let him go on his own recognizance, but the Immigration and Naturalization Service immediately detained him and refused to set bond. A Canadian citizen, Abouazza was soon interrogated again by both INS and the FBI.

Abouazza was scheduled to appear in court June 12th on the initial Cambridge violations, but, despite the judge's request, INS refused to let him attend his own hearing. The feds say they were concerned because Abouazza's supporters planned to rally outside the courthouse. Security guards forced those who attended the hearing to walk through a second metal detector (after the routine detector at the entrance) and submit to hand scanning. The guards also photographed them.

His priorities twisted, the judge expressed annoyance not at the feds who denied Abouazza his day in court, but at Abouazza himself, who had no say in the matter. He issued a warrant for Abouazza's arrest.

According to Nelson Brill, Abouazza's Brookline-based immigration attorney, things then got even more bizarre.

Guards at the Bristol County Correctional Facility allegedly punched the Palestinian and repeatedly taunted him with chants of "Taliban." On June 16th Abouazza says they restrained him while someone in a surgical mask forcibly extracted four teeth. Without anesthetic. The next day, when he said he wanted his lawyer to review a form they told him to sign, Abouazza says the guards threw him into solitary. When it turned out one of his teeth was only partially removed, it took pressure from the Canadian Consulate and the ACLU to get him antibiotics and pain medication.

The Sheriff denies Abouazza's charges. But attorney Brill says an independent review of the medical records supports the claim that Abouazza never signed a consent form -- and reveals that the extraction proceeded without x-rays and other standard pre-op procedures.

At a June 28 immigration hearing, a judge who refused to accede to federal demands finally promised the Palestinian-Canadian a quick return to Canada. If INS cooperates, by the time you read this he should be back in Montreal -- where a dentist will finally x-ray and examine him.

Brill says that, with the USA Patriot Act looming in the background, Abouazza's case took a "weird turn" quite unlike what used to be considered normal. He also says cases like this one are increasing. Even true-blue patriots might wonder what that means next time those fireworks burst on high.

More on Israel/Palestine and Amer Jubran

Note: this version may differ from the published version.

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