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Lawyer For Algerian American Entrapped By Law Enforcement Describes Injustice

Entrapment has often been used as a weapon against Muslims in order to bolster the government’s claim that there is a widespread “threat” of terrorism. It’s a method used to gather intelligence,  and it allows law enforcement officials to more readily turn individuals into informants.

The PATRIOT Act’s obscure language has allowed for the expansion of the FBI’s powers, leading to many terrorism prosecutions that are based almost entirely on intimidation and sting operations. In these cases, the accused may not have been involved in any acts of terrorism prior to FBI involvement.

For example, consider the case of Ahmed Ferhani.

Ferhani is an Algerian-American sentenced to 10 years in prison and forced deportation, according to a stunning report by John Knefel, “because of statements [Ferhani] made to an undercover NYPD officer about tossing a grenade into a Jewish house of worship.”

He is currently in an induced coma after he attempted to hang himself in his cell due to what’s been alleged to be inhumane abuse by corrections officers. Knefel cites the words of Ferhani, who warned in one of several letters addressed to District Attorney Loretta Lynch of attempting suicide in order to bring light to the abuse he’s facing:

“I want everyone to know that the next time I am violated by correction officers or their supervisors I will take my own life. If taking my own life is the only way to expose the evils that are practiced daily by corrections officers then I will be glad to do it.”

Ferhani, who is said to have a life-long history of mental illness, was “preyed upon,” according to Lamis Deek, a legal counsel for his family.

“If it were not enough that he was targeted and preyed upon by the NYPD, the Department of Corrections unleashed its worst predatory practices against Ferhani,” Deek told Shadowproof. “Ferhani was repeatedly harassed, abused and beaten by his jailers who believed he was a terrorist without having the facts of his case. He was neither protected nor acknowledged by the Department; now he is dying at the tender age of 30, after a lifetime of hardship and abuse.”

Deek is a human rights and criminal defense attorney, who works on domestic and international matters as a practitioner and consultant. She has defended mosques from Islamophobic lawsuits. She has represented political organizations and individuals, who face state repression and attendant civil suits, as well those accused of terror-related activity who may be targeted for political and free speech activity.

She is a notable figure, who has been active in the struggle for Palestinian human rights, in the fight against Islamophobia, police repression and brutality, and other matters of activist rights.

Deek explained that Ferhani’s case is similar to other entrapment cases.

“We had a thoroughly incompetent and predatory police team. Detective Pinkall, who had stalked Palestinian human rights groups for years, was the handler of UC 242. They launched a wholly illegal and unconstitutional operation that violated the low standards even as set out by the Handschu Guidelines, which lasted for several years,” according to Deek.

“When they saw they had nothing to pin on the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim groups, and communities they violated, they latched on to Ferhani knowing he had been previously institutionalized by their own department, that he was not remotely politically active or interested, and that he was not only mentally infirm but financially desperate,” Deek recounted. “They peppered his life and conversations with issues related to Israel and moved from that to anti-Semitism and encouraged and drew that out, which was easy to do because the UC goaded him into doing it.”

“When they finally convinced him they could make money on a gun purchase and resale, they had drawn from Ferhani, by having him parrot all the words they needed to cabin this simple gun transaction as a terrorist and hate crime. What is a bit different here, however, is the depth of knowledge by the NYPD of Ferhani’s mental health issues, and the fact that the FBI thought this case was a sham and didn’t even bother involving itself although it is rightfully within their jurisdiction,” Deek stated.

“What was also notable,” she added, “was the court seemed less-than-convinced that the NYPD had, in fact, caught a terrorist, and this can be seen in the court’s acceptance of the plea offer and its dicta.”

Deek contended there is an unquestionable pattern when it comes to US authorities targeting the most vulnerable members of society. Clear evidence of this is in the amount of domestic terrorism cases which are “pre-emptive,” and most often simply concocted by authorities by way of intense manipulation—meaning that without the involvement of authorities, not only would there have likely never been an “attempt,” it would have been just as likely that the defendants would never have thought to even commit an act of violence.

She highlighted a case, where the defendant was clearly suffering from mental health issues and “did not even know how to use a screw driver.”

“If each of the victims had a strong social support network, well paying jobs, healthcare, knowledge etc.,” Deek said, “they would not have been so easily used and abused by the government for the purpose of justifying the security apparatus’ grossly exaggerated budget.”

Ferhani’s story, and that of countless others, highlights the tragic outcome of deeply abusive and disingenuous entrapment cases, where the FBI and other law enforcement officials work tirelessly to all but fabricate evidence in order to give reason for further surveillance, increased budgets, and to justify the so-called war on terrorism.

According to Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions, a report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in 2014, the FBI themselves may have turned lawful citizens into terrorists:

“In some cases the Federal Bureau of Investigation may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by conducting sting operations that facilitated or invented the target’s willingness to act. According to multiple studies, nearly 50 percent of the more than 500 federal counterterrorism convictions resulted from informant-based cases; almost 30 percent of those cases were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot.”

The report by HRW is a detailed investigation of 27 cases involving discriminatory targeting of individuals, who had mental disabilities; abusive practices, which includes prolonged solitary confinement and severely restricting communication between defendants and family members; and the charge of material support of terrorism for doing nothing more than donating to charities outside the U.S. “based on flimsy connections to alleged terrorism.”

In one case, that of U.S. citizen Ali Abu Ali, HRW reports Ali alleged he was threatened with amputation, whipping, and denied food. A judge later rejected his claims of abuse and sentenced him to life in solitary confinement at a supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, following his conviction for charges involving material support for terrorism, conspiracy, and planning to assassinate the President.

In another case, Barry Bujol sought guidance from his local Muslim community on the subject of “jihad.” The Black convert to Islam was characterized by the community as being susceptible to extremism.

This community became weary of his questions due to their previous experiences with government plants. The FBI later managed to find Bujol’s name in communications with Anwar Al-Awlaki, which showed he had asked Awlaki for guidance about the subject of “jihad,” and despite offering his book, Bujol continued to ask questions and attempted to understand the material. This suggests he not only needed religious guidance, but that he may have been especially impressionable.

According to the report, the FBI swept in and took advantage of this impressionability. Bujol’s attorney argued in court that an FBI informant began telling Bujol that his idea of “jihad” (which was defensive) was wrong, provoking him into changing his beliefs based on false information: “[T]he informant encouraged Bujol to turn from “defensive jihad,” related to the self or community, to “offensive jihad,” marked by proactive violence. “Barry had always believed he had to participate in defensive jihad, but the CI told him he has to do this,” she said.”

After being encouraged by an informant to take part in a plot, Bujol found himself sentenced to 20 years in prison for attempting to provide material support to terrorists and also for identity theft.

According to a 2012 article in the FBI’s “law enforcement bulletin” by David J. Gottfried on “avoiding the entrapment defense in a post-9/11 world,” law enforcement officials understand how to prevent defendants from being acquitted for a crime if the defense is that they were persuaded or induced by these officials to engage in criminal activity.

The article reads almost like a how-to guide for law enforcement officers on methods they can use in order to “overcome [the] entrapment defense” and “prevent another terrorist attack.”

This not only plays on public fear and hysteria concerning terrorism, but it also takes advantage of the defendant’s criminal record (if he or she has one). Agents exploit pending charges, instances when a defendant brags about illegal activity, or incidents, where the defendant showed sympathy for terrorists or criminals, to help them manufacture terrorist cases.

Roqayah Chamseddine

Roqayah Chamseddine

Roqayah Chamseddine is a Lebanese-American writer, published poet, and journalist, whose work can be found at