US law enforcement unfairly targeted Muslim-Americans

A 214-page report found the FBI often targeted vulnerable individuals in sting operations, and subjected convicts to restrictive confinement..

US law enforcement unfairly targeted Muslim-Americans

World Bulletin / News Desk

Two leading rights groups alleged Monday that U.S. law enforcement agencies coerced, and in some cases paid, Muslim-Americans to plot terrorist attacks they were then prosecuted for.

Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute investigated 27 of the nearly 500 federal terrorism cases since September 11, 2001, and uncovered tactics that question the U.S.’ counterterrorism practices.

“Since the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington DC, the United States government has failed to meet its international legal obligations with respect to its investigations and prosecutions of terrorism suspects, as well as its treatment of terrorism suspects in custody,” the report alleges.

Many of the cases involve law enforcement agencies sending an informant into a Muslim-American community who then targets individuals and suggests that they take part in terrorist activity, or encourages them to act.

While the cases do pose serious concerns over the U.S. counterterrorism efforts, they are not large enough to be considered a representative sample, said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch and one of the three authors of the report, during a press conference following its release.

Still, the 214-page report found the FBI often targeted vulnerable individuals in sting operations, and subjected convicts to restrictive confinement.

“This report documents the targeting of the particularly vulnerable, those with mental or intellectual disabilities, the indigent, new converts to Islam who seek answers and instead find an undercover FBI agent,” said Prasow.

At least eight defendants in cases examined by the rights groups showed signs of mental or intellectual disability. In one such case NYPD informant Osama Eldawoody showed Shawahar Matin Siraj, whom his attorney said was more interested in cartoons than global affairs, graphic photos of abuses against Muslims. Upon seeing the pictures Siraj said he was “blinded” by emotions. Eldawoody told Siraj that he was terminally ill, which Siraj connected to his own father’s disability. A father-son relationship was cultivated between the two over time, and Siraj became eager to please Eldawoody. Eldawoody then began to plan an attack on the 34th Street subway station at Herald Square in New York City with Siraj and one of Siraj’s friends who was eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

While Siraj never fully agreed to the attack, he did say that he would have to ask his mother before carrying it out. A forensic psychologist who evaluated Siraj for sentencing said he “is susceptible to the manipulations and demands of others.”

When he was imprisoned at a facility in the U.S. state of Indiana, Siraj’s sister said his first request was access to the popular cartoon and videogame Pokemon – a far cry from the interests of a hardened terrorist. Indeed, Prasow said that in some cases such tactics may have created terrorists where originally there were none.

“But take a closer look and you realize that many of these people would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts,” said Prasow in a release issued Monday.

Moreover, the 27 cases that the report investigated found that a climate of fear was created within the affected communities and beyond.

“The effect ripples within the community in ways that I couldn’t even imagine,” said Tariq Ismail, adviser to and former fellow with Columbia Law School's Human Rights Institute.

“People become afraid to discuss things that should be subjected to their community’s criticism as a way of dealing with the issues that we’re concerned about.”

Such activities have also impeded efforts by local, state and federal agencies to reach out to Muslim-American communities, said Prasow, “And in some cases these abusive practices have deterred community members from reaching out to law enforcement.”

Advanced copies of the report were sent to the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice before publication, but neither Human Rights Watch nor Human Rights Institute received any feedback.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Temmuz 2014, 11:50