Detainees Start Hunger Strike
Arabs held in terrorism roundups protest being jailed during Ramadan
BY: Wayne Parry
Associated Press Writer
Newark, N.J., Nov. 16--(AP) Angry at being jailed on immigration charges during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, some Arabs detained after the Sept. 11 terror attacks have started a hunger strike, their lawyers say. "They say, 'We have wanted to be with our families for the holy month, and now that's not going to happen,"' said Sohail Mohammed, an immigration lawyer who represents several men who are being held on immigration charges but have been cleared by the FBI of any role in the attacks.
The number of people participating in the protest wasn't clear. Two weeks ago, the FBI said 31 detainees remained in INS custody in New Jersey. Kerry Gill, a spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in Newark, said government standards define a hunger strike as a period of at least 72 hours in which a prisoner refuses food or drink. "So far, no one has gone 72 hours without food or drink," he said.
Gill said the INS on Thursday dispatched officers to meet with detainees who had threatened hunger strikes. The visits are normally done every few days, he said.
Sandra Nichols, an immigration lawyer representing four detainees in Passaic County and one in Hudson County, said the strike began as a protest against the slow speed with which the INS had been processing and releasing detainees already cleared by the FBI. Nichols said most of the detainees are being held for overstaying their visas and have agreed to be deported.
In Islam, Ramadan marks God's revelation of the Quran, Islam's holy book, to the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims abstain from food, drink and smoking during daylight hours in an act of sacrifice and purification.