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Guild Condemns Decision In United States V. Salah

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – June 8, 2006

National Lawyers Guild Condemns Decision In United States V. Salah

Chicago–The National Lawyers Guild condemns Judge Amy St. Eve’s decision in United States v. Muhammad Salah not to suppress Salah’s coerced confession obtained by the Israeli government agents more than 13 years ago. The U.S. government has charged Mr. Salah, a U.S. businessman of Palestinian descent, with aiding a terrorist organization largely based on this confession.

In 1993, Muhammad Salah was arrested by Israeli solders at a Gaza checkpoint while waiting to enter Israel. He was accused of distributing money in the West Bank and Gaza (money he said was for humanitarian causes) to aid the families of alleged Hamas activists. According to an affidavit filed in U.S. district court by Salah, he signed a confession after prolonged torture—74 days—by at least 12 Israeli agents.

During the time he was detained, Mr. Salah was denied access to a lawyer, could not communicate with his family, and was subjected to torture–including sleep deprivation and physical and psychological abuse–until he signed a confession in Hebrew, a language that Mr. Salah can neither speak nor understand. In addition, the public was barred from the proceedings, secret evidence of torture was withheld as classified and was denied to right to counsel, the right to remain silent, to confront witness, to be free of double jeopardy and to have a public trial.

After the torture, abuse and mistreatment that Mr. Salah was forced to endure, it is a violation of his constitutional protections from self-incrimination to allow his coerced confession to be used against him in the government’s case. Judge St. Eve has set a dangerous example by allowing a coerced confession into the U.S. courts. By not suppressing the confession, St. Eve disregards the importance of constitutional safeguards protecting defendants from forced incrimination due to governmental mistreatment and abuse.

NLG President Michael Avery said, "Torturing prisoners is a flagrant violation of human rights and international law. When our government turns prisoners over to others for torture, as has happened in several cases, or seeks to exploit torture committed by one of our surrogates, as happened in the Salah case, the government demonstrates contempt for our own Constitution. We have to hold the U.S. government accountable in such cases."

The National Lawyers Guild, founded in 1937, is a progressive bar association of lawyers, law students, legal workers and jailhouse lawyers. Its national office is headquartered in New York and it has chapters in nearly every state, as well as more than 100 law school chapters. The Guild has a long history of supporting legal and political movements in this country and internationally. It has sponsored several fact-finding delegations to the Middle East and has issued numerous reports on human rights violations there, including The Al Aqsa Intifada and Israel's Apartheid: The U.S. Military and Economic Role in the Violation of Palestinian Human Rights, January 2001, available at the Guild’s website: www.nlg.org.

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