Palestinian-born activist Farouk Abdel-Muhti was released on April 12 after nearly two years spent in eight different prisons and jails, without ever having been charged with a crime. “I still am in pain, the pain is physical and sometimes spiritual,” Abdel-Muhti told Amy Goodman in a Democracy Now exclusive on April 13. But he added, “My hope, my inspiration when I speak to you gives me power to continue to speak for rights and justice.”
Abdel-Muhti, 56, had lived in the United States for almost 30 years when he was arrested on April 26, 2002. A prominent Palestinian activist in New York, his arrest occurred a month after he began working for local radio station WBAI, arranging interviews with
Palestinians in the West Bank. Members of the “Absconder Task Force” picked up Abdel-Muhti on the basis of a 1995 deportation order.
The U.S. government, however, was unable to deport him. Because Abdel-Muhti was born in British-controlled Palestine and left before Israel invaded and occupied the West Bank in 1967, he is not eligible for either Israeli travel documents or documents from the Palestinian Authority.
A 2001 Supreme Court ruling in Zadvydas v. Davis “mandates release of immigration detainees who prove to be undeportable after 6 months,” Shayana Kadidal, Farouk’s attorney, told the Associated Press. Yet Abdel-Muhti was held for 718 days, 250 of which were spent in solitary confinement, without any explanation. In a statement written for a rally last April, Abdel-Muhti reported strong anti-Arab bias among the prison guards. “Guards search my cell most days of the week, claiming they are looking for weapons. I answered to one of them, ‘My weapon is my mind.’”
U.S. District Judge Yvette Kane ordered Abdel-Muhti’s release on April 8. While the judicial order referred to his “unique position as a Palestinian-born individual who is ineligible for either Israeli or Palestinian identification numbers,” the ruling does not grant him a green card. Kadidal said there is no chance he will be deported.
Abdel-Muhti’s statement last April argued, “we need to stop the historical circumstances that permit U.S. imperialists to subjugate the working class and the majority of the population.”
Abdel-Muhti’s release is a victory for immigrant rights advocates, but the crackdown continues. On April 13, the day after Abdel-Muhti’s release, 65 Pakistani-Americans were deported back to Pakistan. Since June 2002, the Bush administration has deported 1,682 Pakistanis. “Many innocent people have been jailed and deported on minor visa violations,” says Faiz Rehman, who chairs the National Council of Pakistani Americans. “The deportations will create more uncomfortable feelings in Pakistan,” Rehman told the Washington Times.