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Southern California Muslims rally around detained fund-raiser

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ Muslims in Southern California have rallied around a former employee of an indicted Islamic charity, asserting at a protest Friday that he has been inappropriately jailed and threatened with deportation by federal authorities.

No one disputes that Abdel-Jabbar Hamdan was a successful fund-raiser for the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. His lawyers and supporters said Hamdan, who is Jordanian, believed the money was being used to help orphanages and schools.

A 42-count indictment unsealed this week in Dallas alleges the group provided millions of dollars to Hamas, a Palestinian militant group that the United States considers a terrorist organization.

Seven men, including the group's president and chairman, were charged in the indictment, but Hamdan was not among them.

Activists and lawyers for Hamdan claim he was jailed for an alleged immigration violation because federal agents want to pressure him for information about the charity.

``This is un-American and hypocritical,'' Sabiha Khan of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said as about two dozen protesters held placards before praying outside a federal office building.

Because of privacy policies, U.S. officials are barred from disclosing details of Hamdan's alleged immigration violation. He will have a chance to contest the charge at a hearing before a judge, said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

FBI spokesman Matt McLaughlin has declined to comment on whether Hamdan was a focus of the criminal investigation into the Holy Land Foundation.

Hamdan's immigration attorney, Ban al-Wardi, said immigration authorities detained him for violating the terms of the student visa he used to enter the United States from Jordan in 1979.

``They started off saying, 'If you just cooperate with us to the level that we're looking for, then we will make all of this go away,``' al-Wardi said.

Hamdan, a 44-year-old father of six U.S.-born children who lives in Buena Park, was detained Tuesday _ the same day the indictment was unsealed.
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