By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Adham Amin Hassoun’s journey through the U.S. justice system began on a balmy June night 18 years ago when agents with South Florida’s Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested him at his Sunrise home for overstaying his student visa. It ended a month ago with his deportation to the tiny African nation of Rwanda.
Hassoun’s arrest in 9/11’s wake was front-page news. The stateless Palestinian computer programmer was friends with al Qaeda wannabe Jose Padilla, who became notorious the month before following his arrest on suspicion of plotting to set off a radioactive, or “dirty,” bomb. Both men had attended Fort Lauderdale’s Masjid Al-Iman mosque.
Padilla, Kifah Jayyousi – both American citizens – and Hassoun were ultimately charged with being part of a U.S. support cell that sent money and recruits to Islamic extremists overseas, notably in Bosnia and Chechnya. In 2007 in federal court in Miami, they were tried, convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms for conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim people in a foreign country.
Jayyousi was released in 2017. Padilla remains is solitary confinement at a super-maximum security, or Supermax prison, in Florence, CO. He is scheduled for release on Feb. 15, 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
Hassoun, 58, finished his sentence two years early for good behavior and was released in October 2017. But his incarceration didn’t end. Instead, the Trump Administration put him in an immigration prison in Batavia, N.Y. and sought to hold him indefinitely as a danger to national security as a civil detainee under a never-before-used provision of the USA Patriot Act.
Hassoun case ‘chilling’
“This entire case has been a travesty, as well as an abuse of a power that the government never should have had in the first place,” said Jonathan Hafetz, a senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in a press release last month. “That the government was able to hold Mr. Hassoun for over 17 months without charge or trial, on the basis of false allegations that the government itself refused to defend in court, is chilling.”
Non-U.S. citizens who complete their federal sentences are routinely deported. Hassoun was born in Lebanon, but was not a Lebanese citizen. So deportation to his home country wasn’t possible. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials told the court they couldn’t find any country willing to take him.
Starting in 2018, attorneys for Hassoun began filing petitions for a writ of habeas corpus, contending that he was being illegally held. The case, and much of its still-sealed court records, ultimately ended up in the court of U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford in Rochester, NY, near where Hassoun was being held.
In August 2019, then-Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan certified to the court that Hassoun was being detained as “an alien engaged in terrorist activity and engaged in activity that endangers the national security of the United States.”
In December, Wolford ruled that Hassoun’s continued detention was not lawfully authorized and ordered a hearing at which the government would have to prove its claim by “clear and convincing evidence.” From court filings, it appears the government considered invoking the sweeping “state secrets privilege” to completely hide evidence, but did not.
On June 18, the Justice Department instead filed papers advising the court that the evidence it could muster was “insufficient to meet the standard set by the court.” On June 29, Wolford issued a written ruling in which she ordered Hassoun to be released and set conditions for his continued supervision, including confinement to his sister’s home in Sunrise while wearing an ankle bracelet monitor.
The ACLU released a statement from Hassoun on the day of the Wolford’s ruling. “All I’ve wanted, like everyone else, is to be free and with my family again. But the government at every turn tried to deny me the opportunity to prove my innocence,” he said, according to LAW360.
The government quickly asked two appeals courts to keep Hassoun locked up while it appealed. But Hassoun’s deportation to the Republic of Rwanda around July 22 made those requests moot.
Rwanda’s government issued a brief press release on July 24 saying it had received Hassoun “on humanitarian grounds.”
Hassoun was relocated “in accordance with the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons…He willingly accepted to be relocated and resettled in Rwanda.”
Reached at her Sunrise home, Hassoun’s sister was asked how her brother is adjusting to life in Africa. “He’s doing fine, but I don’t want to speak about the subject. We’d like to put this behind us,” she said.
Hassoun may be banished from the U.S., but he isn’t quite finished with the U.S. government. Pending in court is his motion for sanctions against the government for hiding and destroying evidence of his innocence.
Like many other court records in the case, those documents are sealed and not available for public viewing.