A personal note. Writing about America's political prisoners is essential to defend freedom, justice, and other democratic values, especially wrongfully persecuted Muslims for political advantage. I communicate directly with five notable victims, all of whom I greatly respect, including:
- attorneys Lynne Stewart and Paul Bergrin;
- Yassin Aref;
- Dr. Rafil Dhafir; and
- Shukri Abu-Baker.
I've also written about them all, discussed them on the Progressive Radio News Hour, and am committed to help achieve justice so far denied them.
This article concerns Abu-Baker, after Rafil Dhafir emailed me the following from Terre Haute, IN federal prison Communications Management Unit's (CMU) segregation section where Muslims receive excessively punitive treatment:
"Last night Shukri Baker, here in CMU, got a call from his family that his daughter Sanabil is dying in the hospital. She has cystic fibrosis, Thalassemia major and diabetes. She is not eligible for lung transplant. She is only 24 who has only 2 months left to finish college.
He is distraught. With tears in his eyes he kept asking:
'What did I do to this country to deny me enough time to talk to my dying daughter by phone? Why am I not allowed to hug my baby in her last days of her life? Who is going to council my young daughters and their mother in this hour of grief and uncertainty?'
He asked for extra phone calls to straighten things out. He was given the run around. The Chaplain claimed that he is new and does not know the procedure for approval. Those who can be talked to are no where to be found. It was late Friday when he learned of his daughter's condition.
It broke my heart to see this great man who helped save the lives of millions in places far away from here, who never hurt anyone intentionally, and who dedicated his life to saving and relieving children and needy people be denied the right of a human being to see his dying daughter off and to help his own children.
It is cruel to imprison one for providing relief but it is far worse in cruelty to deny such person the comfort of talking to his dying child. Would one then wonder why these calamities befall the world all over?"
Dr. Rafil Dhafir's Wrongful Conviction for His "Crime of Compassion"
Activist Katherine Hughes explained Dhafir's case in her 2006 article by that title. A Muslim American of Iraqi descent, he practiced oncology until wrongfully convicted for violating Iraqi Sanctions Regulations (IEEPA), using his own funds and what his Help the Needy charity raised to bring desperately needed aid to Iraqis in the 1990s.
Yet, he was convicted on 59 of 60 bogus charges, including tax fraud, money laundering, mail and wire fraud, imprisoning him for 22 years. Like Shukri Baker and other Muslims, he's incarcerated at Terre Haute's infamous CMU. More on it below.
Shukri Abu-Baker: President and CEO of the Holy Foundation (HLF) Charity
A previous article explained his case.
A later article followed the sentencing of HLF's five principles. Abu-Baker and Chairman Ghassan Elashi each got 65 years for providing:
- financial aid to needy and impoverished families;
- a sponsorship program for orphaned children;
- various social services;
- educational services;
- medical and other emergency work; and
- community development, including help to rebuild Palestinian homes on their own land in their own country that Israel lawlessly destroyed.
They, in fact, described their work as follows, saying - "We gave:
- books, not bombs;
- bread, not bullets;
- smiles, not scars;
- toys, not tanks;
- peace, not terror;
- liberty, not poverty;
- hope, not despair;
- love, not hate; (and)
- life, not death.
So we ask: If (over six decades of occupation) obviously shatters lives, while charity builds them and charity feeds children, while occupation kills them, why is a charity organization - not occupation - paying the price?"
They, in fact, broke no laws, committee no crimes, but were targeted for their faith, ethnicity, prominence, activism and charity, the two main principles getting a de facto life sentence for being Muslims at the wrong time in America, like many others wrongfully imprisoned.
They provided essential relief to Palestinian refugees in Occupied Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan, as well as to needy recipients in Bosnia, Albania, Chechnya, Turkey and America.
Three other principles, included:
- volunteer Mufid Abdulqader - 20 years;
- New Jersey office director Abdulrahman Odeh - 15 years, and
- California office director Mohammad El-Mezain - 15 years.
They were convicted on most or all 108 counts, including supporting a terrorist organization, money laundering and tax fraud. They also incurred a $12.4 million fine, impossible to pay nor should they.
Communications Management Unit (CMU) Imprisonment
A previous article explained its lawlessness.
It's for so-called "high-security risk" Muslim and Middle Eastern prisoners in violation of federal law, prohibiting severely limiting or cutting them off entirely from other inmates, as well as outside contacts and communications.
Segregating prisoners by race, national origin, or language violates the Supreme Court's February 2005 Johnson v. California decision, affirming 14th Amendment protection against racial discrimination. Specifically, the Court:
"rejected the notion that separate can ever be equal-or 'neutral' - 50 years ago in Brown v. Board of Education" repudiated it. This court "refuses to resurrect it today."
US Prison Bureau regulations also stipulate that "staff shall not discriminate against inmates on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or political belief (including) administrative decisions (involving) access to work, housing and programs."
Nonetheless, the Bush administration instituted these practices. Under Obama, they continue unabated at Terre Haute, IN and Marion, IL federal prison Communications Management Units (CMU). Perhaps additional federal and state facilities will follow for other wrongfully persecuted Muslims.
They're to assure they get fewer rights and privileges than other prisoners, including allowable communications. Also:
- poorer food quality, amount, or that conforms to a strict Muslim diet;
- proper medical care; and
- virtually everything else, prison authorities given much latitude to do as they please, including violating Bureau of Prisons regulations and US law.
As a result, emergency medical care takes days or longer to receive. Essential care can take weeks, months or be denied. Other mistreatment includes harassment, intimidation, food rationing, the serving of forbidden-to-eat kinds, frequent "shake-downs," and removal or theft of personal possessions. Also rejection of simple requests, delay or denial of mail and other communications, as well as restricting them altogether.
In other words, Muslims are fair game to be treated any way prison authorities wish. They take full advantage against glorious men like Dhafir, Abu-Baker, and many others deserving honor, not prison.
Instead, they're out of sight and mind, wrongfully denied justice by a lawless nation, withholding it from innocent victims targeted at home and abroad.
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