Muslim leaders summoned to meeting with NJ attorney general

Muslim leaders summoned to meeting with NJ attorney general

MONDAY, MAY 21, 2012 LAST UPDATED: MONDAY MAY 21, 2012, 6:36 PM

Muslim leaders say they have been invited to a meeting Thursday with the state attorney general in Trenton for an update on a possible investigation into New York Police Department surveillance operations.

Muslim leaders have demanded that state Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa investigate NYPD activities in New Jersey since news of surveillance broke. A spokesman in Chiesa’s office said Monday “we have no comment.”

The NYPD surveillance program targeted Muslims at businesses, universities and mosques, including one in Paterson and several in Newark, as well as student groups at 16 Northeast colleges, including Rutgers University.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Police Department have defended the spying program — first detailed in a series of articles by The Associated Press — as lawful and necessary.

Some civic and religious groups and lawmakers, though, have blasted the surveillance as a violation of civil rights and have called for an investigation.

Top law-enforcement officials in New Jersey met with Muslim leaders in Trenton on March 3 to address concerns and told them fact finding was under way to determine whether to launch an official investigation.

The same two dozen leaders who attended that meeting were invited to meet with Chiesa Thursday at 2:30 p.m. in the Robert J. Hughes Justice Complex.

Muslim leaders said they hoped for answers and assurances that the matter was being taken seriously.

“I want to hear the truth – why it happened, whether it was legal or not legal,” said Mohamed Younes, president of the American Muslim Union.

But several leaders interviewed Monday said they were doubtful that any investigation would be announced at the meeting. They said they have heard from Chiesa’s staff over the past several months and been told the fact finding process would take time.

Imam Mustafa El-Amin, of the Masjid Ibrahim in Newark, said he wanted assurances that an investigation was on the way, but that either way, he was glad the meeting was called.

“This lets us know he did not ignore the issue of surveillance in the our Muslim community, nor did they sweep it under the rug,” he said.

The U.S. Attorney General also is reviewing requests to investigate NYPD surveillance activity outside New York City.