LOS ANGELES – The top fundraiser for an Islamic charity walked out of a detention facility to cheers from a few dozen supporters, more than two years after the government claimed his group had ties to terrorism.
"No words can describe how I'm feeling right now. I'm ecstatic," Abdel-Jabbar Hamdan, who has never been charged with terrorism, said Monday as he left the federal detention center.
Hamdan, who founded a mosque in Anaheim, was arrested on immigration charges in July 2004 as federal authorities unsealed an indictment against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. The government charged that the Texas-based charity funneled millions to the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
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He was convicted of overstaying a student visa he got 27 years ago and ordered deported. The Holy Land Foundation's president, chairman and director of endowments were charged with terrorism-related crimes.
Federal authorities have promised to continue to press to remove Hamdan from the United States.
Hamdan had requested that he be released on bond while he fought the immigration charge, but the request was denied for nearly two years by immigration judges until U.S. District Judge Terry Hatter ordered him freed last week.
Hatter's move was based on the recommendations of a magistrate judge's report calling the government's conduct "dilatory" and the amount of time it took authorities to prepare certain court transcripts "troubling."
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday rejected a last-ditch government request to keep him locked up.
Hamdan was released without bond but must wear an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet and check in regularly with authorities.
"I've renewed my faith in the justice system in this country," Hamdan told The Associated Press moments after his release.
Hamdan, who was born in a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank, has acknowledged traveling around the country as a Holy Land fundraiser. He insists, however, he has no information to support allegations the group aided Hamas, which the United States has labeled a terrorist organization.
"My mission was purely humanitarian, to help the children and the disadvantaged people in Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and around the world," he said during an earlier hearing.