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Muslim leaders, law enforcement to meet over surveillance

September 5, 2012 4:09:30 AM PDT
Muslim leaders and law enforcement officials from across New Jersey plan to meet for the first session of a task force created in the wake of revelations that New York City police conducted secret surveillance of Muslims in the state.

Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa will preside over the private meeting Wednesday in Newark, which will include representatives from the New Jersey State Police and the state Department of Homeland Security, according to his spokesman, Paul Loriquet.

The outreach committee was established in the wake of revelations that the New York Police Department had been conducting secret surveillance of Muslim businesses, mosques and student groups in New Jersey.

Such operations were part of a widespread NYPD program to collect intelligence on Muslim communities inside New York and beyond. Undercover officers and informants eavesdropped in Muslim cafes and monitored sermons, even when there was no evidence of a crime. The result was that many innocent business owners, students and others were cataloged in police files.

The interstate surveillance efforts, revealed by The Associated Press earlier this year, angered many Muslims and New Jersey officials. Gov. Chris Christie, who appointed Chiesa, asked the attorney general to look into the NYPD's actions, which NYPD officials have repeatedly insisted were justified and legal.

Chiesa's three-month review concluded in May with the finding that the NYPD had not violated any New Jersey laws.

The findings angered many New Jersey Muslims who felt they had no state recourse to end the spying. Eight Muslims filed a federal lawsuit in New Jersey against the NYPD in June.

Imam Mustafa El-Amin, of the Newark-based Masjid Ibrahim, said he plans to attend Wednesday's meeting and has asked officials to address what efforts are being made to make sure Muslims aren't being spied on in New Jersey based on their religion.

The formation of the Muslim outreach committee was announced at the same time Chiesa released his findings on the NYPD. Since that time, Loriquet said the attorney general had held monthly briefings with the NYPD to make sure New Jersey law enforcement was aware of the agency's activities in the state, adding that the NYPD had been "fully cooperative."

The task force is "intended to enhance a greater understanding and communication between law enforcement and the Muslim community," Loriquet said.

The initial meeting will focus on setting an agenda and schedule and deciding on representatives, Loriquet added.

They'll aim to convene the group at least once every quarter.

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