The Sikh Sentinel
It was not easy to give a telephone interview, but he
made several fifteen-minute time limit calls to tell his story. That is
how it works in jail, and that is where 45-year-old Harpal Singh has
been since 1997.
Although secret evidence cases have been highlighted in the press since
9/11, the use of secret evidence has been going on long before then.
Powers granted to federal prosecutors following the 1995 Oklahoma City,
bombing are still being used to imprison immigrants based on secret
evidence. Case in point - Harpal Singh.
After being arrested four times between 1987 and 1992, and put through
brutal torture by Indian authorities, Harpal Singh skipped, bail and
escaped to the United States with his wife Rajwinder Kaur in 1993. When
they arrived in New York, both Harpal Singh and Rajwinder Kaur applied
for asylum at the airport. While their application was being processed,
the couple moved to northern California.
Harpal Singh has never been charged of a crime by the United States, and
the Indian Government has never asked for his extradition, yet when
Harpal Singh stepped outside the courtroom after his asylum hearing with
the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), four years later,-he
was arrested and thrown in jail. Harpal Singh was accused by the INS of
"engaging in activities which asserts constitute terrorist activities"
that would statutorily bar him from asylum and qualify him to be
deported. He was also deemed a threat to the national security of the
United States. And all the evidence against him is classified National
Security Information (NSI) which neither he nor his lawyers have ever
seen. When asked why he thinks the government is detaining him, he said
it was because of his activism in the Khalistan movement.
The Khalistan movement is a separatist movement which gained strength
after the 1984 attack of the Golden Temple (Darbar Sahib) by the Indian
Army, also known as 'Operation Blue Star,' and the pogroms against Sikhs
after the assassination of Prime Minister Gandhi orchestrated by the
Indian government. And for the next ten to fifteen years, what followed
was atrocities committed by Indian officials to squash those they
perceived as involved in the insurgency, mostly young Sikh men. It was
during this time that Harpal Singh became a "central figure" in the
Harpal Singh talked in detail of those days and his involvement with
Khalistanis, not only to The Sikh Sentinel (TSS). Because he did not
know what the evidence was against him, he, his wife, and several
witnesses testified in court to counter what he had to guess was the
evidence against him. He said he testified in detail and told everything
about his involvement with the movement. His testimony filled hundreds
A Dissident Is Here
The events of 1984, he said, made him realize his faith. He grew his
kesh (hair) and began wearing a turban. As an attorney, he helped defend
young Sikh youths who had been falsely accused of being militants.
Harpal Singh became apolitical activist.
In 1985, Harpal Singh joined the All India Sikh Student Federation (AISSF),
which was anon-violent group until it split into multiple wings, some of
which advocated violence. His only involvement in the original
non-violent AISSF, he said, was to organize large rallies to protest the
Indian government's political agenda for Punjab, raise funds, and
publicize the government's abuses against Sikhs. One of the rallies he
organized was held to protest the building of a canal, which would take
water from Punjab; 200 people were arrested.
Soon after; fifteen police officers detained him for questioning
regarding Atinder Pal Singh, a vice president of the AISSF. He was also
accused of anti-government activities and locked in a cell at the police
station where he was tortured by having his legs pulled apart until the
muscles tore. Harpal Singh's father, a retired semi-government official,
used his influence to have him released. Harpal Singh was warned and
threatened not to continue his political activities, but his political
convictions only grew stronger from the brutalities he suffered. Harpal
Singh continued to attend meetings and rallies and he continued to help
young Sikhs in court. But he remained disconnected with the violent
factions of the Khalistan movement.
Most militants went into hiding. This was a time when 'fake encounters'
were common and thousands of young Sikh men 'disappeared,' as documented
by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and many other human
Harpal Singh was arrested again in 1989 for questioning about the
whereabouts of other leaders of the AISSF, Charanjit Singh and Gurjit
Singh. Charanjit Singh was accused of providing ammunition to the people
who killed Sant Longowal. Both Charanjit Singh and Gurjit Singh died
later in police custody and in a fake encounter, respectively. When they
did not get what they out of Harpal Singh, the police tortured him by
tying his hands behind his back and lifting him off the ground by a rope
placed between his arms. The muscles in his shoulders tore and broke. He
then had his legs pulled apart while a heavy steel roller rolled over
his thighs. He could not walk or move his arms. Again, Harpal Singh's
father intervened and he was released. They took him to the hospital.
Later that year, Harpal Singh was arrested a third time. He said the
police detained him for agitating for Khalistan and again tortured him.
They broke his leg twice, for which he spent three months in a jail
hospital. Rajwinder was harassed by the police who visited her at her
in-law's house regularly while her husband was in jail. Harpal Singh was
finally released after his father posted bail. But this time he went
Activities In The United States
In 1990, Harpal Singh fled India and came to Canada where one of his
brothers was living. From there, he entered the United States and moved
to California. He stayed with friends who were members of the Sikh
After settling down, Harpal Singh continued his political activities. He
joined the Sikh Youth of America (SYA), an organization which supports
Khalistan but is against violence outside India, and travelled the
country speaking at various Gurdwaras and private homes about the
situation of Sikhs in India. He participated in demonstrations,
including one at the Indian consulate in San Francisco, and encouraged
Sikhs to donate money to the Khalistan movement, although he claims he
never personally handled the money. He told people to send their
contributions directly to India or Pakistan. He only provided telephone
Harpal Singh spent the next two years continuing these political
activities, supporting himself by driving a truck. During this time,
Harpal Singh also received a temporary resident's card through the
legalization program using false identification cards.
In 1991, Harpal Singh and a friend, Pritpa1 Singh, formed the Khalistan
Affairs Center that continues to be used as a lobbying office today. It
is run by Amarjit Singh. Harpal Singh and another friend, Daljit Singh,
also set up a trust to buy the Canadian newspaper Chardi Kala that is
currently operational and covers stories about Punjab. That year, the
FBI questioned Harpal Singh about the Panthic Committee, formed in 1986
as the Khalistan government in exile. The FBI told him that he was "free
to propagate Khalistan" as long as he did not use or promote the use of
Also that year, the Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) kidnapped a
Romanian diplomat, Liviu Radu. Harpal Singh told TSS that he was
instrumental in his release. He and several people active in the
Khalisian movement decided that the SYA would issue a press statement
that called for the unconditional release of Radu. The statement was
published in every newspaper in Punjab and in international Sikh
publications. Eventually Radu was released unharmed. Harpal Singh said
that the kidnapping only harmed the cause and that it should never have
Back To India
But in 1992, Harpal Singh returned to India. His wife was very sick.
Only one other person knew that he was going back to India. When he
arrived at Bombay Airport, both he and his contact were arrested,
blindfolded and flown to New Delhi.
In detention, Harpal Singh was shackled and interrogated about his
actions since he left India and his involvement with Sikh organizations
in the United States, including Sikh Youth of America, the World Sikh
Organization, and the Khalistan Affairs Center. He was again tortured
with beatings and electric shock. He was accused of collaborating with
various individuals sympathetic to the Khalistan movement and of
participating in the kidnapping of the Romanian diplomat, Liviu Radu.
Harpal Singh was then turned over to the Punjab police who threatened to
charge him for possession of explosives in a fabricated case.
Harpal Singh's family had been searching for him and finally located him
in Punjab. His father attempted to find more information on his son, but
this time he was unsuccessful. He turned to human rights organizations
such as the Punjab Human Rights Organization, Asia Watch, and Amnesty
International for assistance. Harpal Singh was released five months
later on bail; He and his wife went into hiding, and in 1993 they left
India. They left behind their six-year-old daughter who is staying with
Upon arrival in New York, Harpal Singh presented a newspaper article
about his arrest to the INS and asked for asylum. Back in California,
Harpal Singh again became involved in the SYA and with the Khalistan
Harpal Singh testified that he had been in close contact with two key
militants in the Khalistan movement, Daljit Singh (also knows as 'Bittu')
and Paramjit Singh (also known as 'Panjwar').
Harpal Singh said that he and Daljit Singh were college buddies. By 1991
Daljit Singh became president of the Sikh Student Federation (SSF), a
member of the Panthic Committee, and a convener of the International
Sikh Youth Federation. He was in contact with Sikh leaders from around
the world. Harpal Singh began to phone him regularly from California
after a mutual friend brought them together. But Harpal Singh claims
that "their discussions included the need for a more effective lobby;
better media; efforts to get the United Nations involved; fundraising
for Sikh-refugees in Pakistan, and generally how to keep the movement
Harpal Singh told TSS and in his testimony that his political views were
that militancy hurt the Khalistan movement. And because of his views, he
and Daljit Singh never discussed the acquisition of weapons or the
recruitment of militants. He also told TSS and he testified that he
never handled any money or sent any money to Daljit Singh. Harpal Singh
believed the movement should not resort to militancy until they receive
recognition by the United Nations as a "disturbed area". He said his
only involvement was that he assisted many people reach Daljit Singh in
Pakistan by telephone. He connected calls. Some of the callers were
journalists from the newspaper Ajit and the Tribune who wanted a
statement from Daljit Singh.
Paramjit Singh was a general of the Khalistan Commando Force (KCF),
designated the Khalistan army in exile in 1986.
Harpal Singh stated that his involvement with him was limited to
discussions of political strategy and militancy; the work of human
rights groups in Punjab; and Canadian, American, and Sikh politics. The
sticky point came when he sent $2,000 to Paramjit Singh in Pakistan.
Harpal Singh told TSS and in his testimony that it was used to buy a
truck. The documents for the purchase were presented as evidence to show
that the money did not go for terrorist purposes. And although he had
never met Paramjit Singh, he also sent $2,000 to his wife and $5,000 to
his grandfather for medical treatment.
Harpal Singh continued to contact Sikh activists and politicians in
Punjab. In the United States, he organized and conducted fundraising
activities for various groups including Khalistan Affairs Center, the
Sikh Defense Fund which provides legal assistance to Sikh asylum seekers
detained in North America, the Akal Academy which is an educational
institute in India, and the Sikh Society of Punjab which provides
education and medical assistance to Sikh refugees in Pakistan.
In his testimony, Harpal Singh stated that he believes the situation in
Punjab is a civil war and that the use of violence is justified in a
civil war as long as it does not target civilians.
He also testified that he was never involved in training militants,
funding militants, or transporting militants. All he did was to tell
people "who to call."
Harpal Singh's activities in the United States also included forming a
committee to press the United Nations to recognize the Sikh people in
India as a 'separate nation' and to declare Punjab a 'disturbed area.'
In 1995, the FBI questioned Harpal Singh about his return to India in
1992 because they said that members of his community had accused him of
being an agent for the Indian government. They discussed his asylum
application. Harpal Singh told them that he wanted asylums so that he
could bring his daughter to the United States. Rajwinder Kaur, his wife,
testified that her only involvement in her husband's affairs was limited
to exchanging pleasantries. She was aware of her husband's involvement
with Khalistan affairs and Khalistanis, but that was all. She also
testified that they tried to bring their daughter Navroop to the United
States but were unsuccessful.
Returning to India is not possible for Harpal Singh. He testified that
he fears he would be arrested, physically tortured and killed. His
sentiments were supported by Cynthia Mahmood, PhD, an expert in South
Asian and particularly Sikh affairs.
She testified that Harpal Singh was a "central figure in the expatriate
Khalistani movement" and that he is one of 50 to 100 people worldwide
who are seriously at risk in India. She also testified on the condition
of Punjab today - that there are three groups that remain a risk:
Khalistanis; those previously arrested; and women. The former (K.P.S.
Gill) and current Director General of Police of Punjab have publicly
stated they see a continued security threat to India from prominent
Khalistanis living outside India, in Pakistan and the West.
If a threat were to again arise in Punjab, Mahmood believes that the
Indian government would not hesitate in cracking down excessively.
"Recent human rights improvements in Punjab are not durable,
fundamental, or systemic changes."
Part II - Shadows
Harpal Singh and Rajwinder Kaur arrived in New York in 1993 and applied
for asylum and withholding of deportation. To defeat those applications,
the INS presented classified evidence and; secret witnesses.
The next issue will examine the immigration judge's ruling, the
vagueness of secret evidence, the Patriot Act, legal tactics, politics,
and the appeals that continue.
"And if he is guilty of aiding and abetting terrorism, you might be
too." - Bay Guardian
Harpal Singh had friendships and acquaintances with many key players in
the Khalistan movement which were in place long before any of them
became politically involved following the 1984 attack on Darbar Sahib.
With their long-standing trust for him, Harpal Singh was able to
successfully walk between two worlds - that of the moderate Khalistanis
and the militant Khalistanis.
Harpal Singh considers himself a non-violent activist who can influence
prominent figures in the movement. But his influence and activism got
him in trouble with the Indian authorities. After enduring several
episodes of barbaric torture, Harpal Singh escaped from India with his
wife Rajwinder Kaur in 1993.The couple applied for asylum upon landing
in New York. While their asylum petition was being processed, Harpal
Singh continued to work on the Khalistan movement from the United
The U.S. government had been aware of Harpal Singh's presence in the
United States since his first arrival in 1989, but it was eight years
later that they arrested him. The government, under the Immigration and
Naturalization Service claimed that he was a threat to national
security, a charge Harpal Singh denies. After an appearance with an
Immigration judge in 1997 and a subsequent appeal before the Board of
Immigration Appeals in 2000, Harpal Singh's case is now under another
appeal with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. If
this decision does not go his way, Harpal Singh and his attorney will
file a petition to be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States.
The INS is seeking to deport Harpal Singh back to India. To defeat his
applications for asylum, the INS brought in secret evidence. Neither
Harpal Singh nor his attorney have ever seen the secret evidence against
him. Any discussion of that evidence in the successive court rulings is
also a secret.
Professor David Cole of Georgetown University Law Center, Washington
D.C., an attorney who has defended 13 noncitizens in such cases, told
the Bay Guardian newspaper, "There's just no way to have a fair
proceeding when the government presents its evidence behind closed doors
and the foreign national then has to try to respond to what he thinks
might be back there - without knowing what the evidence is, who said it,
when it was said, or what it's about."
"One of my clients said it was like fighting shadows."
The INS brought some serious charges against Harpal Singh. Court
documents made available from his attorney, Robert Jobe, reveal that the
INS's case centered around charges that Harpal Singh was engaged in
terrorist activities - that he provided "material support" to terrorist
organizations and that he was a threat to the security of the United
States. They also claimed that Harpal Singh was instrumental in the
kidnapping of Romanian diplomat Liviu Radu in October 1991.
When this case was finally heard in April 1997, Immigration Judge Dana
Marks Keener stated: "[The INS] leveled serious allegations against
Harpal Singh…but they have calculatedly done so in a forum that requires
the least amount of evidence for such charges."
A spokesperson for Robert Jobe told The Sikh Sentinel that they believe
a good deal of this evidence consists of FBI analyses of conversations
Harpal Singh had from his own home telephone and from secret witnesses
who testified in the case.
In the early 1950s, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of secret
evidence in cases involving immigrants suspected of crimes or political
associations that posed a threat to national security. When President
Clinton signed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA)
in 1996, the use of secret evidence was further expanded to include
cases involving alleged terrorists. AEDPA had a direct impact on
immigration law. Before its passing, the only condition which would bar
an asylum grant was if the applicant were a convicted felon. With AEDPA,
the INS can use secret evidence to charge an applicant with terrorist
activity and detain immigrants for years without filing criminal charges
The biggest issue with using AEDPA in this case is that the vast
majority of the activities Harpal Singh is being tried for preceded its
passage. Harpal Singh's actions were perfectly legal at the time they
were committed. Jobe argued that there was nothing in the wording of
AEDPA that specifically states it could be applied retroactively, it is
prominent by its omission and intentionally left out. Yet that is
exactly what the Immigration Judge did in judging Harpal Singh.
The First Decision - 1999
In asylum cases, the Judge must consider whether the applicant is a
"refugee." A refugee is a person who would face persecution if returned
to the country they fled. In Harpal Singh's case there was no doubt,
considering the horrific torture he had endured in India.
The Judge described Harpal Singh as an "impressive witness." His
detailed testimony was supported, undisputed, by medical evaluation.
Professor Cynthia Mahmood testified that Harpal Singh was among a select
group of Khalistani activists who would be at serious risk if returned
to India, even killed.
The INS argued that the country conditions in India had changed
dramatically in the six years since Harpal Singh left Punjab because of
the successful suppression of the Khalistani movement by the Indian
authorities, often by brutal force. And because of the improved
conditions, Harpal Singh should be deported back to India.
The Judge sided with Harpal Singh.
She was convinced that Harpal Singh had endured "truly despicable
persecution at the hands of the Indian authorities." And to ensure
compliance with the 1967 United Nations Protocol Relating the Status of
Refugees, the Judge decided Harpal Singh could not be deported even if
he were involved in terrorist activities. She stated: "[Withholding
deportation] would fulfill our moral and statutory obligation as a
nation to afford protection to refugees without regard to political
The Judge also concluded that Harpal Singh was likely to be tortured in
India and therefore, eligible for relief under the Torture Convention.
Emma Winger, a spokesperson for Harpal Singh's lawyer, told The Sikh
Sentinel that the requirements for getting relief under the Torture
Convention - which means that Harpal Singh cannot be deported for fear
of torture and possibly death - are very strict; and because he was
given relief, it makes a strong statement about the seriousness of human
rights abuses by the Indian government.
Harpal Singh was deemed a refugee who would not be deported back to
India, but withholding deportation did not mean he could be released
into the United States. That could only happen if he were granted
asylum. With asylum, a refugee is granted permission to bring immediate
family to the United States, work in the United States, obtain a Green
Card for permanent residence status, and eventually become a citizen.
Essentially, the refugee is given a new life in the U.S.
The only thing in his way now was the new immigration rule under AEDPA
which the Judge decided to apply to this case. If an applicant is found
to be engaged in any terrorist activity that threatens the security of
the United States, the Judge could deny asylum.
Both Harpal Singh and the INS presented witnesses and documentation to
support their interpretations of the scope of his activities, but many
of the differences in their views of the evidence were a matter of
perspective and political opinion.
The Judged found Harpal Singh to have engaged in terrorist activity by
providing "material support" to militants.
The Judge said Harpal Singh provided potential donors with the telephone
number of a money transfer service used to funnel money into Pakistan,
he gave a small amount of his own money to the leaders in Pakistan, and
"he crossed the legal line when he raised funds for individuals he knew
(or should have known) had committed or might be planning to commit
terrorist activities. The Judge stated, "He cannot hide behind a 'don't
ask, don't tell' legal fiction." He had "a duty to monitor the use of
funds… if he wanted to be assured they were being used only for
humanitarian purposes." The Judge deemed Harpal Singh's fundraising
activities constituted "material support."
The Judge also stated that Harpal Singh provided communication support
when he worked out ways to connect phone calls to Daljit Singh and
Paramjit Singh in Pakistan while avoiding detection by the Indian
government. The communications support, she said, also constituted
"material support." Harpal Singh told The Sikh Sentinel that he
presented evidence to show that the money he donated was used for
humanitarian purposes, but the Judge did not accept his claim, although
no evidence was presented to show that the money went directly for
The Judge did give him a break when she stated: "His decision to view
this action through rose colored glasses is a rationalization, not an
Jobe made the argument that because none of the organizations that
Harpal Singh had been associated with were designated as 'foreign
terrorist organizations,' he could not have engaged in terrorist
activity. Even today, there are no pro-Khalistan groups on the United
States government's list of foreign terrorist organizations. Although
Harpal Singh was associated with Paramjit Singh's Khalistan Commando
Force and Daljit Singh's Sikh Student Federation, neither is on the
list. This is highly significant because they did not meet the requisite
that they pose a threat to the security of the United States.
The Judge did not agree, probably because these groups were militant.
Based on all the evidence presented, unclassified and classified
(secret), the Judge found that Harpal Singh "distorted or minimized
situations where he agreed with militancy and where his actions crossed
the acceptable line." In the December 19, 1999 decision, the Immigration
Judge concluded that Harpal Singh was a refugee who did "engage in
terrorist activities" and could be barred from asylum because of his
fundraising activities and his work as a communications link.
But this was not the end. The Judge could reserve favorable discretion
in considering asylum if she concluded that Harpal Singh was not a
danger to the security of the United States.
The INS offered a surprising statement for the security argument. They
said that the level of danger to national security need not be very
significant "because the government of India is a government friendly to
the United States, any of [Harpal Singh's] activities that endanger the
security of India present a danger to the security of the United States.
This statement said it all. The INS was pursuing Harpal Singh for purely
The Judge, however, did not agree with the INS.
The purpose of the United States asylum law, she said, is humanitarian,
not political in nature, and any political fallout from any particular
decision should be ignored. In fact Professor Cynthia Mahmood provided
uncontested testimony that militant Khalistanis were not a threat the
United States government, nor to Indian officials visiting the United
States. She based her opinion on the "respect Khalistanis have for the
The Judge concluded that Harpal Singh was not a danger to the security
of the United States.
Harpal Singh is a Khalistani. He was educated and trained as an attorney
and has assisted pro bono in human rights cases while in the Punjab. The
Judge felt that Harpal Singh played a constructive role in the
community. He had openly campaigned for the United Nations to recognize
the Punjab as a disputed territory. She also acknowledged that although
the Khalistani movement's use of violent tactics was neither endorsed
nor condoned, those tactics were not simply incidents of random
lawlessness, but rather deliberate political maneuvers. "A de facto
civil war has raged in the Punjab, with military and strategic targets.
The struggle for Khalistan is an example of where one side calls those
involved freedom fighters and their opponents call them terrorists." The
Judge recognized the political legitimacy of this struggle and factored
that into considering a favorable exercise of discretion.
The Judge considered Harpal Singh a credible witness, she believed he
was viciously tortured in India and blocked his deportation, and she did
not consider Harpal Singh a threat to the security of the United States;
but in the end she took a leap from that opinion and made an upset
ruling. For reasons more fully attributed to the secret evidence, the
Judge found Harpal Singh to have a lack of candor regarding his
involvement in terrorist activities. Based on her discretion alone, the
Judge denied Harpal Singh's application for asylum.
In the remaining items of the ruling, the Judge ruled in favor of Harpal
Singh in deciding that instead of participating in the kidnapping of the
Hungarian diplomat Radu, he was actually key in getting him released.
And Rajwinder Kaur, Harpal Singh's wife who was accused of much the same
allegations, was granted everything - asylum, withholding deportation,
and relief under the Torture Convention. The Judge went so far as to
call the INS allegation that she was a national security threat
Both Harpal Singh and the INS appealed the Immigration Judge's decision.
Harpal Singh appealed the denial of asylum decision and the INS appealed
the blocking of deportation decision.
Harpal Singh's lawyer, Robert Jobe, held a press conference in February
2000 after filing the appeal.
Robert Jobe: "If there were any substance to these charges, any real
substance, and if the FBI could prove [Harpal Singh's] involvement in a
court of law without relying on the sleazy secret evidence, they would
bring criminal charges, I'm sure… In this particular case, it's a
miraculous thing, but [Harpal Singh] prevailed, despite the use of their
classified [secret] evidence. He convinced the Immigration Judge that
those allegations had no merit, that he was not a danger to the security
of the United States. And despite the fact that he prevailed, even
though he didn't see the classified evidence, he was able to rebut it.
The immigration service is continuing to press this classified evidence
and its appeal. We find that to be just despicable, frankly. Given the
circumstances of this case, when a man's life is at stake, the only way
that I could describe their tactics in this case…is, it's despicable."
David Cole, a constitutional lawyer at Georgetown University, has
represented a number of people who faced detention based on secret
evidence. He says that in his experience the U.S. government uses this
tactic against people who are not in any real sense a threat to national
David Cole: "I've represented, over the last decade or so, thirteen
people, against whom the government has sought to use secret evidence.
The government alleged that all thirteen were threats to national
security and should be detained and deported for that reason… And what
it ultimately came down to in almost every case was that the government
said: these people are a threat to national security, not for what they
did, but for the organizations with which they are affiliated or
associated. Not that they did anything bad, but that the groups have
done something bad and we want to attribute the acts of the group to the
individual where we have no evidence whatsoever, that the individual's
actually furthered any illegal or terrorist activity. And that's
obviously a power that makes the FBI's job easier, in a sense. They
don't have to, you know, do the hard work to figure out if someone is
engaged in criminal activity if they just establish that the person has
affiliates with the wrong people, they can turn the matter over to the
INS and seek to deport the person."
INS spokesperson Russell Bergeron said it's the agency's obligation,
however, to present this evidence to the court. "In these rare instances
where pertinent, important classified evidence is presented to us by
outside agencies, this is the only mechanism currently provided to us,
under the law to present this important evidence, this admissible
evidence, to the courts. He was not clear about what "outside agencies"
meant, but it is probable that it refers to agencies outside the United
Impact On Sikhs And Minority Communities
According to David Cole, virtually all secret evidence cases are against
Arabs or Muslims or those perceived to be Arab. They wonder whether they
are being singled out because of their political affiliations or
personal associations. This only furthers the anxiety or suspicion that
these communities have against authority - the FBI - and it makes the
work of government officials more difficult; there is less cooperation
between the government and the community.
An additional serious concern is that the impact of secret evidence use
constitutes an impediment to free speech in the communities. The
Arab-American and American-Muslim communities are aware of the political
nature of the secret evidence deportation. These secret evidence
deportation procedures also affect Sikhs, although the Sikh community
may not be very aware of it yet. People are not willing to engage in
political debate if their views are not popular or do not mesh with
those of the government. It is political repression of whole
The Stunning Second Decision, 2001
The Board of Immigration Appeals overturned all the favorable rulings by
Immigration Judge Keener. According to Emma Winger from the attorney's
office, the Board reviewed the Judge's decision and made its own
decision. They did not review the evidence, not even the secret
evidence, independently. They denied asylum to Harpal Singh and his wife
Rajwinder Kaur, and they seek to deport them back to India.
Currently, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is reviewing Harpal
Singh's case and has ordered the Department of Homeland Security (under
which the INS is now incorporated) to share its classified evidence with
the court. Both the INS and Harpal Singh have completed making their
arguments before the Court. A decision is expected soon.
Meanwhile, Harpal Singh is still in a Northern California jail.
Rajwinder Kaur works in a factory, just making ends meet. She lives in
Seattle, Washington, north of California, with their eight-year-old son.
Rajwinder told The Sikh Sentinel that she was "just passing time." She
comes to visit her husband often after work. Neither Harpal Singh nor
Rajwinder Kaur has seen their daughter whom they left behind in India
over ten years ago. Only with an asylum verdict can they bring her here.
Harpal Singh said, "This has been very painful. The U.S. government
tries to pin any movement to terrorism. We are freedom fighters."
His last thoughts in our final 15-minute conversation were of his kids.
His last statement was: "The worst part is I cannot wear my turban."
When asked if he would leave the U.S. if he were released, he said, "No,
I want to stay here."
THE AMERICAN INQUISITION