Muslim Tortured in US Prison
A relative of a Pakistani who died in FBI custody last week claimed the detainee was tortured by U.S. prison authorities.
Rafiq Butt, 42, was taken into custody by the FBI after the September 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington. He was arrested in New York, where he had been living for several years.
The FBI claimed that Butt died of cardiac arrest. He was being detained as a material witness and had not been charged with a crime.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on Butt's death on October 24, identifying him as 55-year-old Muhammed Butt, and quoting a criminal justice official as saying that he died "of natural causes from a pre-existing heart condition."
"He did not have anthrax. He was taking antibiotics but he did not have anthrax," Emily Hornaday told AFP by telephone.
According to AFP, Butt had been handed over to the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) on September 20 and had spent the last three weeks of his life in the Hudson County jail in northern New Jersey. Hornaday said
he was "in the process of being deported."
Butt's body arrived in Lahore a few days ago and was immediately sent to Mayo Hospital Lahore for an autopsy, according to Aziz Butt, the dead man's cousin.
Aziz Butt said that the autopsy report revealed marks on Rafiq Butt's body suggesting he had been subjected to severe torture before his death. The report found multiple fractures in his cousin's legs and chest, as well as deep bruises on the body, Aziz Butt said.
A spokesman for the Mayo hospital could not be reached for comment.
Aziz Butt said his family had faced serious difficulties in having his cousin's body returned to Pakistan. He claimed FBI officials deliberately delayed sending the body back and initially insisted on burying the corpse in the United States.
He added that his family was considering legal action against the FBI and other relevant U.S. agencies, who he claims are responsible for his cousin's death.
"They have surpassed our police, which is blamed for custodial and extra-judicial killings," said an emotional Aziz Butt. "Of course it was a murder. They have killed him without any proof."
Turkish News online reported Thursday that some of the Muslim men jailed during the U.S. investigation of the September 11 attacks are complaining about being held in solitary confinement, stripped, blindfolded, physically abused by guards or cellmates and deprived of sleep.
"I was treated worse than an animal," said Yazeed al-Salmi, a former housemate of one of the alleged hijackers. A Saudi living in California, al-Salmi said he was released last month from the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Manhattan.
Al-Salmi's case was also detailed in an October 15 article in the Washington Post.
"They don't call you by name. They call you [expletive] terrorist," Al-Salmi said in the Post article of his jail guards. During his "humiliating and terrifying" detention, the Post said, he missed three weeks of school and was evicted from his apartment.
U.S. authorities disputed some of the specific allegations and have denied any pattern of abuse against the more than 1,000 people who were initially detained.
But an INS district director in Texas, Anne Estrada, admitted to the Los Angeles Times in an October 15 article that such problems do exist for some detainees being held at local jails.
"Sometimes there are some misunderstandings and miscommunications about what our standards are, and sometimes we have to reach out to the county jails so
they understand," Estrada said in the Times article.
Some of the detainees are being held in solitary confinement on material witness warrants, immigration violations or other charges. U.S. authorities say they are attempting to find out if they have any links to the September 11 attacks or if they have any information that may advance the investigation.
Recently, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) demanded the U.S. Justice Department reveal more about the identity of detainees and why they are being held, the daily Turkish News reported.
ACLU official Anthony Romero wrote a recent letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft requesting that the information should be released "to assure the American public that the government's investigation is both thorough and fair."
As many as 100 people are being held in federal lockups in New York City alone as part of the investigation.
Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Linda Smith said accusations against guards in New York are unsubstantiated. Among the allegations, she said, are that prisoners have been blindfolded and denied access to attorneys.
On October 23rd Amnesty International press release expressed concern about two prisoners in New York's MCC who were "reportedly denied exercise; given certain foods which they cannot eat on religious grounds; [and] kept
in cold cells, with only one blanket."
Both the L.A. Times and the Washington Post articles detailed cases in which lawyers had trouble contacting their detainee clients, or in which some prisoners were initially not allowed to contact their lawyers. Amnesty's
statement also expressed concern about prisoners being "denied prompt access to lawyers or relatives."
The only glimpse of the detainees' life behind bars has come from a few prisoners who have either been released or made appearances in open court.
Usama Awadallah, a Jordanian college student from San Diego, was held as a material witness for a month before he was charged October 19 with lying to a grand jury about whether he knew one of the hijackers.