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 Friday, 20 December, 2002, 17:45 GMT
Mass LA Muslim arrests condemned
A woman sobs over the detention of her son
The men had gone to register voluntarily
Civil liberties groups in the United States have called on the justice department to scrap an anti-terror scheme which has led to the detention of hundreds of Muslim men.

REGISTRATION ORDER
Introduced after 11 September attacks
Affects all males over 16 from a list of Arab and Muslim countries who do not have permanent resident status in the US
A 10 January deadline will affect men from Afghanistan, Lebanon, Eritrea, North Korea, Somalia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen
A coalition of nine civil liberties groups called it a "flawed and misguided" scheme which has "damaged America's global image".

Immigration lawyers say at least 500 men - mainly Iranians - were arrested in and around Los Angeles after they complied with an order to register with the authorities by 16 December.

The programme, conceived after the 11 September 2001 attacks, is aimed at men from more than 20 Arab and Muslim nations who do not have permanent resident status in the US.

Critics say it is unlikely that the plotting terrorists the scheme is supposed to uncover would take part in a voluntary registration programme.

'Flawed and misguided'

The detentions have caused deep unrest within the Iranian-American community in California, with thousands taking to the streets earlier this week in protest.

People in LA demonstrating against immigration detentions
Southern California has a huge Iranian community
California is home to about 600,000 Iranians who have been living in exile since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Iranian-American Lawyers Association president Kayhan Shakhib said he feared that the men were being held in inhumane, overcrowded conditions.

California was among the first states where non-resident men from the Middle East were obliged to register. Other states with large Muslim populations have been set later dates.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has refused to say how many people were arrested, but said detainees were being held for suspected visa violations and other offences.


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European probe

Background

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See also:

19 Dec 02 | Americas
18 Dec 02 | Americas
01 Oct 02 | Americas
24 Dec 02 | Americas
06 Jun 02 | Middle East
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