Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

ACLU calls on U.S. to free Megahed

ACLU of Florida regional director Rebecca Steele, left, holds a news conference Monday asking for the release of Youssef Megahed, while members of his family — mother Ahlam, brother Yahia and father Samir — listen in Tampa.

BRIAN CASSELLA | Times

ACLU of Florida regional director Rebecca Steele, left, holds a news conference Monday asking for the release of Youssef Megahed, while members of his family — mother Ahlam, brother Yahia and father Samir — listen in Tampa.

TAMPA — Calling Youssef Megahed's arrest on immigration charges vindictive, local American Civil Liberties Union leaders sent a letter Monday urging Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to release him.

"A federal jury acquitted Mr. Megahed of all criminal charges. Now the government is trying to get another bite of the apple in immigration court," said Rebecca Steele, the ACLU's west-central Florida director.

Sending the letter is an unusual step for the ACLU of Florida, prompted by what Steele described as unusually vindictive behavior by the federal government.

"The facts seem very striking so far, that he's only being singled out for removal based, as far as we can tell, completely on what was already covered in his criminal case," Steele said.

Jurors acquitted Megahed on April 3 of illegal transportation of explosive materials and illegal possession of a destructive device. He could have gotten 10 years in prison on each charge if he had been convicted.

The former University of South Florida student's family says U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained Megahed on similar charges, though immigration officials have declined to discuss specifics of their case.

Ten years ago, the ACLU represented Mazen Al-Najjar, a Tampa man and legal immigrant who had been jailed on secret evidence and accused of ties to terrorists. His detention sparked legislation in Congress to ban the use of secret evidence.

Federal agents swooped down on a Wal-Mart parking lot April 6 and arrested Megahed, a legal permanent resident who has applied for citizenship, as he left the store with his father, Samir. He is being held at the Glade County Detention Center in Moore Haven.

"We give the government the chance to say everything in the court, and at the end of the day, the jurors say my son is not guilty," Samir Megahed said Monday at a news conference at the ACLU's downtown Tampa office. "I send this message to President Obama, that my son is not guilty. Why have they arrested him again?"

Samir Megahed said he's still looking for an immigration attorney to represent Youssef. One attorney said he could handle the situation in two weeks; another said it could take six years to get a resolution, the father said.

In a two-page letter to Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder, the ACLU cites an April 16 St. Petersburg Times story, where Megahed jurors expressed anger over his immigration arrest. Five jurors told the Times they felt disrespected by immigration officials who charged and arrested Megahed just three days after they acquitted him.

Immigration court doesn't recognize double jeopardy. Unlike the federal criminal case, Megahed's immigration proceedings are civil and administrative.

Regardless, the ACLU doesn't agree.

"This is really a slap in the face of the jury system," Steele said. "It may be legally and technically proper, but that doesn't make it right."

Megahed is scheduled for an immigration hearing on April 28.

Kevin Graham can be reached at kgraham@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

ACLU calls on U.S. to free Megahed 04/20/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 12:03am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. After Irma topples tree, home sale may be gone with the wind

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — To house hunters searching online, the home for sale in St. Petersburg's Shore Acres neighborhood couldn't have looked more appealing — fully renovated and shaded by the leafy canopy of a magnificent ficus benjamini tree.

    Hurricane Irma's winds recently blew over a large ficus tree, left, in the yard of a home at 3601Alabama Ave NE, right, in Shore Acres which is owned by Brett Schroder who is trying to sell the house.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  2. Bucs' Josh Robinson excited for return to Vikings

    Bucs

    For much of Josh Robinson's four seasons with the Vikings, there was excitement leading up to the arrival of the $1.1-billion U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened last season, just as Robinson signed with the …

    Josh Robinson (26) tackles Chicago punt returner Eddie Royal (19) during a game between the Bucs and Bears in 2016. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  3. For starters: Rays at Orioles, meeting up with ex-mate Tim Beckham

    Blogs

    The Rays open their final roadtrip of the season tonight in Baltimore, and - continuing the theme of the week - willl cross paths with another familiar face, INF Tim Beckham.

    Tim Beckham made a smashing debut with the Orioles, hitting .394 with six homers and 19 RBIs in August.
  4. Unemployment claims double in Florida after Hurricane Irma

    Business

    The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped by 23,000 last week to 259,000 as the economic impact of Hurricane Harvey began to fade.

    Homes destroyed by Hurricane Irma on Big Pine Key last week. Hurricane Irma continued to have an impact on the job market in Florida, where unemployment claims more than doubled from the previous week.
[The New York Times file photo]
  5. Clearwater Marine Aquarium receives $500,000 gift

    Human Interest

    CLEARWATER — The R.O. Jacobson Foundation donated $500,000 on Tuesday to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium's major expansion.

    The Clearwater Marine Aquarium received a $500,000 donation from the R.O. Jacobson Foundation toward its $66 million expansion.. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]