By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Tawfiq Deek says he first heard about his brother's arrest on the radio on Dec. 14, 1999, while he was driving home from work. "I couldn't believe the accusations against my brother," he recalled. More than six months later, however, those accusations haven't stopped, and they offer a portrait of Deek that is starkly divergent from the hard-working family man described by his family.
As far as the accusation that Khalil had bomb-making materials on his computer, Tawfiq claims that the copy of Encyclopedia Jihad on Khalil's hard drive was a trap. "An informant in Jordan went to Peshawar and asked my brother to give him a copy," he said. "He took that one to the Jordanians, and that's what they used against him."
Tawfiq acknowledges that his gregarious brother may have come into contact with real terrorists. "By his nature, he is very generous," Tawfiq explained. "He used to live here in this building in Anaheim, and the door was always open. People would come here to discuss things and read the Koran. I think he was the same way in Pakistan. What pushed the authorities to arrest him was that they caught people in Libya who mentioned his name. His name was everywhere. This is why he got into trouble."
Indeed, accusations against Deek soon extended to his brother. On Jan. 26, Steven Emerson, a self-described investigator for Terrorism Newswire Inc., testified before Congress about the recent arrests in Pakistan and Jordan. In his testimony, he revealed that U.S. authorities hadn't just been digging into Khalil Deek's background. Emerson stated that "Tawfiq Deek has been involved with the Islamic Association for Palestine [IAP], described by former FBI official Oliver Revell as a 'front group' for Hamas." Hamas, as Emerson didn't have to tell his highly sensitive audience, is a militant Palestinian group long labeled a terrorist organization by U.S. authorities.
Tawfiq acknowledges that he used to be active in the IAP's Southern California chapter. But he claimed it is nothing more than a mainstream Palestinian exile group. "The goal is to promote a just solution to the Palestinian problem through the media and through brochures," he said. "All we did was have an event every October in Culver City. A chanting band would come, and everybody would get a doughnut. There would be speeches, and people would collect donations for orphanages in South Lebanon, the West Bank and Jordan—that kind of activity."
It's worth noting that Emerson is famous for appearing on live television in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing to blame the incident on Arab terrorists.
In fact, at a recent gala dinner held by the mainstream American-Arab Anti-Defamation Committee, which featured an award presentation by radio personality Kasey Kasem, a string of speakers urged the audience to support the IAP. Yet many Arab-Americans' fear of being labeled pro-terrorist helps explain why the group's membership has apparently dwindled in recent years. "They used to have 1,000 people [at the meetings]," Tawfiq recalled. "Now they have maybe 200."
On New Year's Eve, shortly after Deek's arrest, a team of FBI investigators arrived at Tawfiq's apartment in Anaheim. The visit confirmed the suspicion that confronted not just Deek's relatives but seemingly the entire Arab-American religious community as well. In the weeks leading up to New Year's Eve, the U.S. government was intent on determining whether bin Laden's followers were plotting any terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
"A lot of people who live in my apartment building are from the Middle East," Tawfiq recalled. The FBI investigators working overtime on New Year's Eve had a question for everyone in the building, Tawfiq says: "'Are you aware of any Muslim group planning anything against the United States tonight?' That really shows the kind of millennium fever that led to my brother being arrested in Pakistan."
In the days following, Tawfiq says, he noticed officers tailing his car. "But that was the only contact between myself and any government agency that I'm aware of," he said.
Shortly after making that statement, however, he corrected himself. "Actually, I'm sure I'm under investigation, too," he said. "I feel that I'm being watched."
Shortly after his brother's arrest made headlines, Tawfiq hired Federico Sayre, a Newport Beach civil-rights attorney. Sayre's involvement with the case ended in February, when Deek was allowed to meet with his Jordanian lawyer and a representative of the International Red Cross. Sayre told the Weekly he is disturbed by the fact that a U.S. citizen can be arrested and tried by another country without any official protest by the U.S. State Department.
"My feeling is that this is an American citizen who has rights, and they should be respected," he argued.
Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is also troubled by some of the inconsistencies in the case against Khalil Deek.
"It doesn't seem that the Jordanian government or the U.S. has anything on him, or they would have charged him with a specific crime," Ayloush pointed out. "This guy is a U.S. citizen, and he has the right to know what he's being charged with and to have his government look after his interests. That hasn't happened."