TAMPA — Local Muslim leaders and advocates on Tuesday demanded that U.S. immigration officials release Youssef Megahed, who was detained just three days after a jury acquitted him of federal explosives charges.
"This seems to be a double jeopardy. What kind of message are they sending to the jury and the honorable Judge (Steven) Merryday?" Ramzy Kilic, executive director for the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said of Megahed's Monday arrest.
Samir Megahed, who talked with reporters at a news conference held by CAIR, said he still hadn't spoken to his son and didn't know his whereabouts.
"My feeling at this point is I am not living in the United States. I am not under the American flag," he said, adding that around the world, the American flag stands for freedom. "I think there is no freedom here."
Megahed assumed his son may be taken to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Krome Detention Center in Miami. There's a chance he may also surface at the Glades County Detention Center or at a facility in Lumpkin, Ga.
Dozens of immigration attorneys have offered free legal representation to the former University of South Florida student, his father said. But the Megahed family has yet to retain a lawyer to fight their son's latest battle.
Immigration officials have charged Megahed with possessing items that could be assembled into a destructive device.
He was found not guilty on a similar charge in federal court, where public defenders represented him. Jurors acquitted him of illegal transportation of explosive materials and illegal possession of a destructive device, charges that could have each carried 10 years in prison.
Kilic called on President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to personally address Megahed's plight. Kilic referenced a statement by Robert Monk, one of the prosecutors at Megahed's trial, who said, "We respect the jury's verdict when we prevail in a case, and we respect a jury's verdict when we do not."
"This is a miscarriage of justice," Kilic said.
Mel Underbakke, a member of the Friends of Human Rights, attended Megahed's trial and said she was disappointed with immigration officials.
"I had very high hopes with a new president in the White House and a new attorney general that we would see a return to civil liberties in this country," she said. "This has got to stop. The government needs to respect the jury."
Dwight Lawton, another member of the Friends of Human Rights, called on fellow Christians to speak out against Megahed's treatment and call for his release.
"If we don't speak out for each other, soon there will be no one to speak out for us," Lawton said.
Kevin Graham can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3433.