The continued detention of Vijay Kumar, the Indian arrested in Houston, Texas, last week, for possessing Jihadi literature and a set of brass knuckles, is "quite disturbing", his lawyer said, worrying in particular that he may remain in immigration custody for months on end awaiting a formal trial.
In an interview with The Hindu, Mr. Kumar’s attorney, Grant Scheiner, said that while he did not want to accuse the Federal Bureau of Investigation of overreacting, he wanted them to "connect the dots" in Mr. Kumar’s case.
Mr. Kumar, a documentary film-maker stopping in the United States en route to Canada, was arrested at George Bush Intercontinental Airport last Friday after officials were said to have noticed him "fidgeting" and "sweating" in the line for a security check. Regarding even these circumstances Mr. Scheiner pointed out that Houston had seen a spell of unusually hot weather in recent days and it was hardly surprising that Mr. Kumar was sweating.
However, according to Mr. Scheiner the more worrying developments in Mr. Kumar's case occurred this week when although Mr. Kumar posted the bond and was about to leave, the authorities "took him into immigration custody". Mr. Scheiner said that the federal authorities had stepped in and he did not know why, especially as Mr. Kumar was definitely not on any FBI list or the no-fly list.
No clarity or guarantees
Further, there appeared to be no clarity on the length of the immigration custody that Mr. Kumar would face, and “no guarantees that the immigration judge would free him,” after his bail hearing, which was scheduled to be held by Thursday. Even if he were freed at that point, Mr. Kumar would be unable to travel, as he had been asked to surrender his passport. Given that it often takes months to set a trial date, Mr. Kumar faces the possibility of remaining in the United States for much longer, though he knows no one in this country, Mr. Scheiner said.
On the question of Mr. Kumar’s arrest and the subsequent posting of bail, his attorney said the very fact that the "extremely high bond for a third degree felony offence" — set at $50,000 initially — was reduced on Monday to a much lower $5,000, suggested that the judge believed that Mr. Kumar meant no harm. He said, "The judge would not have reduced bail if he’d thought Mr. Kumar was a terrorist."
Regarding Mr. Kumar’s behaviour at the airport prior to his arrest, Mr. Scheiner pointed out that when taken away and interrogated by authorities Mr. Kumar’s reaction was confusion and concern because "he does not speak English very well, he speaks Hindi. Therefore he was confused when questioned".