Sunday, November 13, 2011

Three Guys Named Hammoud

Something stinks.

On Friday Dearborn Police, at the request of the FBI, arrested Ali Hammoud, president of Bintjbeil Cultural Center in Dearborn, in connection with a cigarette-smuggling conspiracy in support of Hezbollah. (“Arab leader from Dearborn released from police custody”).

According to the FBI, Hammoud was arrested by mistake because he “fit a description on an arrest warrant. A man named Ali Hammoud was indicted in 2003 in a conspiracy involving the sale of illegal cigarettes to support Hezbollah.”

So after talking to the banquet hall  Hammoud, the FBI let him go. According to Hammoud’s lawyer, Majed Moughni, "It's mind-boggling; it's uncalled for. To do this to one of the most respected members of the community, it's a slap in the face."

Well, it’s not mind-boggling, but a word on that later.   And even a lawyer ought to grasp that mistakes are usually “uncalled for.”  After Hammoud was released Moughni took a more moderate tone, admitting that the FBI “blundered."

But this is Dearborn. Law enforcement blunders are opportunities for the area’s Islamists to make mischief, usually by demanding  tighter shackles on terror-related investigations in the future. And at this stage it’s puzzling indeed how the FBI could have confused Bintjbeil Cultural Center’s president with an individual who fled to Lebanon several years ago, unless there is a factual link between the conspiracy and the banquet center.  But without knowing the facts behind the arrest warrant, I’m not going to speculate on that.

This early on a weekend, the response from the usual Islamist complainers has been low key, but I expect that to change. Arab-American News publisher Osama Siblani has already stuck his beak in.

"We will not rest until we find out what happened, and we want to make sure it will never happen again," Siblani said. "This is a respected community leader. I never doubted his innocence." (“Wrong man arrested: Head of Arab-American center in Dearborn released”).

If Siblani means that Hammoud is innocent of supporting Hezbollah, that’s especially rich, coming from arch-Hezbollah supporter Siblani. This is how Siblani sounded in 2006, when he was defending the open support by thousands of Dearborn’s Arabs for Hezbollah leader Sheik Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah:

"If the FBI wants to come after those who support the resistance done by Hezbollah, then they better bring a fleet of buses," said Osama Siblani, publisher of the local Arab-American News and an outspoken activist. "I for one would be willing to go to jail."  (“They're 100% American, and pro-Hezbollah”).

After an invitation like that. Siblani has no business griping if the FBI actually follows up in some small way.   And, no, so far the big-talking Siblani hasn’t gone to jail.

But speaking of blunders, do you know who else was helping Siblani sing the praises of Hezbollah back then? That would be yet another Hammoud (relationship to Hammouds I and II unknown to me), namely Abed Hammoud, the former Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor and, in 2006, leader of the extremist Congress of Arab American Organizations who led the rally of 15,000 “100% American” Dearbornites chanting “Nasrallah is our leader!” So where’s the blunder? Abed Hammoud was recently sworn in as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. (“Inside, Outside, Upside Down”).

Bintjbeil’s Hammoud may well be innocent of the other suspect’s cigarette-smuggling conspiracy, but his banquet center is well-known in Dearborn as a meeting place for Hezbollah supporters, known to local law enforcement as the Hezbollah Social Club. The cultural center is named for the village of Bint Jbail in southern Lebanon, a Hezbollah stronghold, from which thousands of Shi’ite Muslims emigrated to Dearborn. “They're 100% American, and pro-Hezbollah”).  Last year Iranian President Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah leader Nasrallah exchanged evil hopes for Israel there, and A-jad made a speech: "The whole world knows that the Zionists are going to disappear," he said to thunderous applause before a frenzied crowd in Bint Jbeil.”  According to Debbie Schlussel, an event she attended at the Cultural Center in 2006 featured speeches from many speakers offering in common “multiple statements about the Jews, cheers for the total destruction of and end to Israel, and support for Hezbollah, the Mujahideen, and the Martyrs.” (“What I Saw in Dearbornistan”).

And, as we’ve discussed here for some time, Dearborn is a big source of illegal contributions to Hezbollah. (“Dearborn, Michigan: Where Hezbollah Gets Its Laundry Done”).

In spite of attorney Majed Moughni’s outburst, there’s nothing “mind-boggling” about Bintjbeil’s Hammoud being suspected by the FBI of being mixed up in a conspiracy to support Hezbollah.

And what Siblani and the rest are concerned about isn’t Hammoud’s “innocence” or his standing in the community. They’re much more upset that the Detroit FBI is actually targeting Hezbollah in Dearborn.

And that’s what they’ll be trying to stop.



Dearborn Citizen said...

Great entry! If this Hammoud doesn't smuggle ciggies, he still supports Hezbollah. It is way past time that the FBI gets serious about arresting those who support our enemies.

RR Ludlum said...

I have a few favorite quotes that turned up from this fiasco. The first comes from Siblani:

"Osama Siblani, publisher of The Arab American News, heard about the arrest late Friday evening and made phone calls early Saturday morning to FBI Special Agent in Charge Andy Arena as well as to Haddad to inform them that they had the wrong person."

"...... there are many people to check with in this community."

First, I think it's wonderful that Osama Siblani knows for whom the FBI has or has not obtained a valid arrest warrant. Does the FBI call him first to consult before going to a federal judge to obtain a warrant? Wow. This guy has some serious delusions of grandeur.

Second, Siblani says the police should have "checked with the community" to find out if the warrant for Hammoud was valid. Are you serious?

My next favorite line came from Al Sharpton wannabe, Majed Moughni, who asks why the Dearborn Police are "doing the FBI's dirty work." That one was priceless. Local police should ignore a warrant because it was issued by a judge at the request of the FBI? The idea that a federal warrant should not be honored locally is absurd. I wonder if Moughni would feel this way if the warrant were for the arrest of a European-American hate crime suspect where the victim was Arab or Arab-American. What do you think?

Next, we have Tarek Beydoun with this gem:

"Attorney Tarek Baydoun also noted that collective bargaining-related procedures have led to police departments hiring mainly officers from outside communities, which is a problem. The vast majority of Dearborn officers come from outside the community which oftentimes leads to problems similar to what happened with the arrest of Hammoud."

Huh? I guess in other words this means: "Affirmative Action was good enough for Detroit, we want it in Dearborn now that it has been declared illegal in court."

And finally, a question: How come Siblani has had nothing to say about all of the people with Arab surnames who are currently being investigated by the FBI in relation to criminality and the appearance of impropriety in Wayne County government? Aren't those issues "Arab American News" too? Or would it be too much of a stretch to cry wolf with racism or witch hunt accusations relative to that particular federal investigation?