Columbus Dispatch – February 25, 2004
Swensen still fights her Muslim husband’s jailing
KENT, Ohio -- Ashraf Al-Jailani's incarceration has left most of his close relatives bewildered, but his 7-year-daughter, Amina, says she understands.
"He's in jail because they think he's a terrorist, and he's really not,'' she said. "They think that on Sept. 11, he was in the plane that crashed into the building.” "But,'' she added, "he was at home.''
Al-Jailani's wife, Michele Swensen, said she wishes she could view her husband's plight -- and her own, for that matter -- in such clear-cut terms.
The 33-year-old Portage County resident said she has been looking for answers for so long that she's exhausted and "emotionally numb.''
"I get tired of never having answers for them,'' Swensen said of Amina and the couple's two other children, Layla, 5, and Sami, 3." 'Where's Baba? When's he coming home? Why is he in jail?' ''
Al-Jailani, a 39-year-old Yemeni immigrant who married Swensen eight years ago, was arrested Oct. 23, 2002, moments after he arrived at the Akron soap-manufacturing plant where he'd worked as a quality-control chemist for more than two years.
On two occasions, last March and again in December, an immigration judge in York, Pa., ordered that Al-Jailani be released on bond. Each time, the U.S. Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security fought the decision. A government appeal is pending.
Representatives of the two federal agencies confirm that Al-Jailani is in custody and that no charges have been filed. Citing provisions of the Patriot Act, the officials said they could offer no other information.
The bottom line: Swensen isn't sure when -- or even if -- her husband will return home.
Swensen said Al-Jailani is limited to one phone call every other week. Because he was the family's sole breadwinner, she's now scraping by on government assistance and can't afford to visit him in prison.
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