Rabbi, priests, sheriffs support Passaic imam in court

11 05 2008

A Jewish rabbi, Roman Catholic and Episcopalian priests, a federal prosecutor and two sherriffs took the witness stand today to heap praise upon a popular Muslim cleric as his attorneys began presenting their case for why he should not be deported.

Mohammad Qatanani, imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County in Paterson faces deportation for allegedly failing to disclose on his 1996 green card application that he had been arrested and pleaded guilty to aiding the terrorist group Hamas in an Israeli military court three years earlier.

His attorneys argue that Qatanani was detained administratively, convicted in absentia and subject to interrogation tactics Israel’s top court later outlawed as torture.

Among the witnesses subpeonad by Qatatani’s lawyers was Assistant United States Attorney Charles McKenna, who described numerous trips to the Paterson mosque as part of an effort to create better understanding between law enforcement and the Muslim community.

As an example, he said investigators often interpreted the tendency of Muslim women to not look them in the eye as a sign of deceit. Through the dialogue at the mosque, they realized it is routine in Arab culture for women not to look men outside their family in the eye.

“It’s important for us to have leaders in the Islamic community who will be accepting of us and give us inroads in the community,” he said.

The sheriffs of two north Jersey counties echoed McKenna’s statements that the mosque’s open door policies had helped investigators become more familiar with cultural aspects of the Muslim community.

But they also described a more personal connection they had made through their cooperation with Qatanani.

“When I’m in his presence, and he does have a presence, this small, unassuming person, he doesn’t say “boo” but he gives me a better feeling of peace,” said Bergen County Sheriff Leo McGuire. “I feel better as a person to be with him.”

Jerry Speziale, the sheriff of Passaic County echoed McGuire’s testimony saying Qatatani “radiates peace.”

Christopher Brundage, one of two Department of Homeland Security attorneys serving as prosecutors in the case, pressed Speziale and McGuire, asking if they would have different opinions if they had known about Qatatani’s alleged ties to Hamas.

Speziale said he would need to see proof of the conviction himself. McGuire said, “It would surprise me,” but added, “it cannot change my mind about what I have observed.” NJ.com


Passaic New Jersey is on the top 12 of the list for over priced homes

5 02 2008

While many of the nation’s homeowners are worried about falling home prices, others would argue they’re not falling fast enough.

You might find them in Santa Monica, Calif. There, it takes just over 17 years of total earned salary for the median-income household to afford the median-priced home. In Berkeley, Calif., it takes almost 15 years and for Passaic, N.J. households, it’s a more reasonable 13 years.

To find the rest of the spots on our list, we used data from Demographia, a St. Louis-based demographic research firm that draws on U.S. Census data for areas considered suburbs in the nation’s 50 largest metros. Based on these numbers, we calculated how many years of total salary it would take the median household to afford the median house to find the country’s most overpriced areas. Forbes

Protesters say police roughed up Arab family while family was resisting arrest

19 01 2008

PATERSON — More than 200 Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans marched and chanted slogans Friday against police tactics that left members of a Syrian-American family injured and facing felony assault charges.

“Justice to the Muslim community,” they shouted as they held placards above their heads. “Justice to the Haq family. Bring the abusers to justice.”

The crowd gathered outside City Hall to protest the bruises, a broken nose and deep gashes that three members of the Haq family — mother, father and eldest son — suffered after they allegedly grappled with three police officers Wednesday inside their Dakota Street home.

The officers came to investigate a 911 call of adult-on-child domestic violence at the house. Police say the eldest son, Saer Haq, 26, threatened to kill the officers.

The melee ended when the officers arrested the three Haq family members who allegedly assaulted them: Saer Haq; his father, Sammy Haq, 52; and his mother, Montha Haq, 49.

Also arrested was Ammar Haq, Saer Haq’s 21-year-old brother, and a neighbor, Gunnur Kulaksiz, 42.

Police officials maintained that the officers’ response was appropriate under the circumstances. They say Saer, Sammy and Montha Haq jumped on the officers as they were trying to arrest Saer Haq, who has an arrest record that includes several resisting-arrest offenses and one assault charge stemming from a Feb. 14, 2005, domestic violence complaint, according to police records released Friday.

“The police department and the police are justified to use whatever force to affect an arrest,” Police Chief James Wittig said after the protesters left City Hall to rally before the Public Safety Complex on Broadway.

Some protesters said they were not so much bothered by the fact that the five were arrested but that three of them were bloodied in the process.

“How much force do they need to arrest people?” said Mohammed Latif, 29, who traveled from Linwood in Atlantic County after seeing images of the injured family in an Arabic-language newspaper. “That just reminds me of Abu Ghraib.”

Wittig said: “How about the police officers who were injured?”

Two of the officers involved were treated at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center for minor injuries and released.

Friday’s protest was mostly peaceful, minus a short tussle between protest organizer Hani Awadallah and Mayor Joey Torres, in which the mayor tried to keep Awadallah from grabbing a microphone used during the mayor’s short press conference. So Awadallah used his voice instead. He shouted into the cold afternoon air:

“We came here in peace and we will be leaving in peace.”

You Can Save A Life ; Just take a fiew minutes and wipe the Ice/Snow off your car

13 01 2008


Above is a picture of a car that was smashed from falling ice. Please be considerate for your fellow freinds. Please take the extra fiew minutes to clear snow or ice off your car. Please use caution when driving leave extra time.

It was unseasonably warm last week, but it didn’t keep me from encountering people who sympathized — just barely — with this column’s call to ban the kind of road hazard that we call the Snow and Ice That Fall Twice.

That’s the kind of white junk that leaves the other guy’s car or truck, hits your windshield and makes your whole life flash in front of you. You know the kind:

* The Route 17 kind that killed Ridgewood’s Michael Eastman nearly 12 years ago.

* The Route 287 kind that caused Hawthorne’s Bob and Mary Mahon to chase after the car whose icy load smashed their windshield last year.

* The Route 80 kind that ran Kinnelon’s Tara Varner and her 2-year-old off the road last month.

Shouldn’t New Jersey fine drivers whose vehicles carry snow? Currently, statute 39:4-77.1 makes it illegal only when it causes damage or injury.

Cathy Eastman understands this because the vehicle whose icy load crushed her husband’s skull was long gone by the time police arrived. Tara, Bob, Mary and most of the 2,000 readers who sent me petitions early this year also get it.

But not some folks I’ve encountered. “There are thousands of SUVs, many driven by women,” said Pequannock’s E.L. Quigley. “They can’t clean ice off the tops of their vehicles.”

Ray R. also sympathizes, but:

“Do you have suggestions for clearing … snow from an SUV that’s been out overnight WITHOUT damaging the hood, roof rack or moon roof?” asked the Fair Lawn man. “Pushing snow off is easy, but after past storms, thick solid ice and packed snow didn’t budge after the car’s heater was on for 20 minutes.”

* Run a garden hose over the car with the heater running, but do this for short periods to avoid cracking the windshield.

* Put old cardboard, canvas or a rug over the vehicle before it snows, and yank it off after the storm.

* Run the engine for an hour, long enough to free frozen snow, or at least to help clear it.

Some consider all this unnecessary. One woman, 72, said: “If I can clean my SUV, so can anybody.” Cathy Eastman, who’s 5 feet 1, says she does it. NorthJersey.com And Passaic News.

Cop killed wasn’t wearing seatbelt

27 12 2007

PATERSON — An off-duty police officer who was killed this week when he lost control of his vehicle did not appear to be wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, a state police spokesman said.

Christopher Dotter, a 13-year veteran of the Paterson Police Department, died early Monday after he crashed on Interstate 80 near exit 60. Dotter was traveling at 2:26 a.m. in the right lane when he began to drive off the side of the road, state police said.

It has not been determined if the force of Dotter’s crash caused his seatbelt to come undone, said Sgt. Stephen Jones, a department spokesman. It was also unclear if a seatbelt would have saved the 43-year-old officer’s life. NorthJersey.com

Passaic Police Officer catches Clifton thieves

22 12 2007

CLIFTON — Police arrested two men and two juveniles suspected in-several strong-arm robberies of middle-aged men and women committed this month in Clifton and Paterson, authorities said Friday.

The four males, 16- to 20-years-old, were apprehended early Friday, shortly after three of them allegedly attempted to rob a 52-year-old man returning to his Prescott Avenue home in Clifton, Detective Capt. Robert Rowan of the Clifton Police Department said.

The would-be victim, sensing he was about to be robbed, pretended he had a pistol by stuffing his hand in his pocket. The three would-be attackers fled, Rowan said.

Witnesses provided a description of both the would-be robbers and their getaway vehicle, allowing a Passaic police officer to pull them over shortly afterwards, Rowan said.

A Clifton detective discovered a 10-inch knife in the vehicle.

Within a few hours of their arrest, Clifton Detective Robert Tillie used a cell phone found on one of the juveniles to link the four to a recent Paterson robbery, in which a 49-year-old, mentally disabled man was assaulted for $15 and his cell phone, Rowan said.

Clifton police were attempting to see if the four males also are responsible for several robberies in and around the Lakeview section of the city, including one committed Wednesday night in which a 54-year-old woman was robbed of her end-of-the-year bonus check and $400 earmarked for her family’s Christmas presents, Rowan said.

In the meantime, Clifton police have charged both Paterson men — Maison Booker, 20, of Sheridan Avenue and Raheem Beal, 18, of Ryle Avenue — with unlawful weapons possession, conspiring to commit robbery and employing a juvenile in commission of a crime.

Booker and Beal were being held Friday at the Clifton Municipal Jail. Bail information was not immediately available.

The juveniles, both 16, were charged with juvenile delinquency and were being held in the Passaic County Juvenile Detention Center in Haledon, according to authorities.

Clifton house destroyed by fire

18 12 2007

CLIFTON – A two-story house on Alfred Street was destroyed by fire late Monday, police said.

There were no reported injuries in the house, but several animals apparently perished, said police Lt. Pat Ciser. Neighbors reported flames moving from the back to the front of the house as city firefighters battled the blaze.

None of the houses adjacent the burning building was damaged, Ciser said. NorthJersey.com