Underwear Bomber Sues Over Treatment in Supermax Prison
By CHARLIE SAVAGE OCT. 19, 2017
WASHINGTON — The Nigerian man serving multiple life sentences for trying to blow up an airliner with a bomb hidden in his underwear has sued the Justice Department, arguing that prison officials are violating his rights by holding him in solitary confinement, restricting his communication with relatives and force-feeding him when he goes on a hunger strike to protest.
The prisoner, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, is a particularly high-profile terrorist who was prosecuted in civilian court. He tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airplane on Christmas Day 2009 as part of a plot by Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen. The device burned his groin but failed to explode, saving the lives of the other 289 people aboard.
After pleading guilty in 2012, Mr. Abdulmutallab was sent to the federal “supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado, and an appeals court in 2014 upheld his conviction and sentence. Little has been heard from him since then. But a lawsuit filed on Tuesday in Federal District Court in Colorado opened a window on what his life has been like.
Its description resonates with many of the issues raised by the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The force-feeding of detainees on hunger strikes there has been the subject of recurring dispute. And ever since Mr. Abdulmutallab’s attack, when political fallout scuttled the Obama administration’s plan to bring five detainees to New York to be tried in the Sept. 11 attacks, many Republicans have argued that the civilian criminal justice system should not be used to handle foreign terrorism suspects.
Mr. Abdulmutallab’s lawsuit does not portray the civilian criminal justice system as coddling him. It said the Justice Department subjected him to “special administrative measures,” severely limiting his ability to communicate with people in the outside world for national-security reasons, and placed him in the penitentiary’s “H-Unit,” where prisoners subjected to such restrictions live alone in single cells.
His complaint about life in Florence invokes what he portrays as constitutional violations, as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that requires the government to accommodate religious practices. Although he is an observant Muslim, the complaint said, he has not been given halal food prepared according to Islamic law, nor has he been permitted to pray collectively with other Muslims or given access to an imam.
During prayer time, it also said, guards permit “white supremacist” inmates in the special security unit to “curse, yell, scream, and say things that are religiously insulting and offensive to Muslims,” and guards sometimes displayed pornography to him while he was trying to pray and, while searching his cell, “defiled” his prayer rug and Quran, ripping its pages and leaving a sticky liquid on it.
The press office of the Bureau of Prisons had no immediate response to a request for comment. But Gail Johnson, an attorney for Mr. Abdulmutallab, said in a statement that his rights were being violated.
“Prisoners retain fundamental constitutional rights to communicate with others and have family relationships free from undue interference by the government,” she said. “The restrictions imposed on our client are excessive and unnecessary, and therefore we seek the intervention of the federal court.”
In protest of the treatment he alleges, along with restrictions on communicating with relatives like his sister and nieces and nephews, Mr. Abdulmutallab began a hunger strike, the complaint said. In response, prison officials transferred him to an even more restrictive part of the prison known as Range 13, where human contact, even with guards, is rare. The complaint cited a recent Justice Department inspector general report in which a Florence prison psychologist said Range 13 was “a form of torture on some level” and qualified as solitary confinement.
On several occasions, Mr. Abdulmutallab has engaged in a hunger strike to protest, the complaint said, but ceased after being force-fed. As at Guantánamo, the procedure involves being strapped into a restraint chair and having liquid nutritional supplement poured into his stomach through a nasogastric tube inserted through his nose.
The complaint accuses prison officials of using force-feeding before Mr. Abdulmutallab’s life was in danger, and said they are administering it in an unnecessarily painful way by pouring a large volume in very quickly. On one occasion, it said, they inserted the tube into his windpipe rather than his esophagus and poured the supplement into his lungs, making him feel like he was being drowned.
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A version of this article appears in print on October 20, 2017, on Page A14 of the New York edition with the headline: Terrorist Sues Over Treatment in U.S. Prison.
Par AFP — 20 octobre 2017
Un Nigérian qui avait tenté de faire exploser avec ses sous-vêtements piégés un avion à destination Etats-Unis a lancé des poursuites contre le ministère américain de la Justice pour des mauvais traitements subis selon lui en prison.
Condamné à la perpétuité pour avoir avait tenté de faire sauter un vol Amsterdam-Detroit le 25 décembre 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab est incarcéré dans une prison de très haute sécurité dans le Colorado (ouest).
Dans une plainte déposée mercredi, il affirme avoir été placé à l’isolement de façon indéfinie, et qu’on l’a empêché de pratiquer l’islam. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, âgé de 30 ans, assure en outre qu’on l’a forcé à manger de la nourriture qui n’était pas «halal», et donc contraire à sa religion.
Quand il s’est mis en grève de la faim pour protester contre ces mauvais traitements, on l’a nourri de force, assure-t-il encore.
«Ces facteurs violent l’interdiction des châtiments cruels et exceptionnels» inscrite dans la Constitution américaine, est-il écrit dans la plainte, déposée auprès d’une cour fédérale à Denver, dans le Colorado.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab avait plaidé coupable en 2012 pour cet attentat manqué planifié par Al-Qaïda dans la péninsule arabique (Aqpa).
Le 25 décembre 2009, le jeune homme était parvenu à embarquer avec 76 grammes d’explosifs au départ d’Amsterdam. Les explosifs dissimulés dans ses sous-vêtements n’avaient pas détoné mais simplement pris feu. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab avait été maîtrisé par des passagers et des membres de l’équipage juste avant l’atterrissage à Detroit, dans le nord des Etats-Unis.
Selon sa plainte, il s’est «bien comporté» ces cinq dernière années mais continue d’être soumis aux conditions carcérales les plus dures en vigueur dans le système fédéral américain. Seuls 30 des 154.000 détenus dans les prisons fédérales seraient ainsi soumis à un tel régime.
Face à ses conditions de détentions, le détenu «lutte» continuellement, selon sa plainte, «pour éviter de devenir malade mental».