"This campaign against the Arabs and Muslims today is repeated the history of the Japanese Americans."
Farouk Abdel-Muhti, Farouk: Political Prisoner
Farouk Abdel-Muhti was born in Ramallah, Palestine in 1947. His mother died when Israeli Occupation forces refused to let his family through a checkpoint to reach a hospital. He came to the U.S. in the late 1970s.
Farouk was a well-known figure in the activist community who worked hard for the cause of human rights. He is one of several Palestinian activists across the country who were put in immigrant detention after protesting Israel's military operations in the West Bank and Gaza.
Farouk was arrested on April 26, 2002, in Queens, New York, by the Absconder Task Force, a joint federal-state immigration enforcement unit which has primarily pursued Muslim men of Arab or South Asian extraction. His arrest came a month after he began working regularly at the New York radio station WBAI-FM, arranging interviews with Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
In his interrogation at 26 Federal Plaza, FBI and INS officers attempted to coerce him into giving names of people who had given aid to Palestinian organizations. When Farouk refused, he was knocked to the floor and methodically beaten by agents for 15 minutes. Farouk was not charged with terrorism or any crime. He was held on the basis of a 1995 deportation order. But partly because he was a stateless Palestinian, the BICE (INS) could not deport him.
Following a hunger strike Farouk conducted with four other immigrant detainees, Farouk was kept in solitary confinement for almost 250 days in York County Prison in Pennsylvania. In November 2003, guards beat and kicked him in the Bergen County Jail, in New Jersey, after finding what they called "anti- government" publications in his cell.
The Supreme Court ruled in the Zadvydas vs. Davis decision 2001 that an immigrant awaiting deportation cannot be held for more than six months. In Faroukâ€™s case the BICE ignored this ruling for nearly two years, cynically evading and disrupting the legal efforts of attorneys Joel Kupferman and Shayana Kadidal, until his release was ordered by Judge Yvette Kane on April 8, 2004.
After several days of further delay, and its unexplained move of flying Farouk to Atlanta and holding him there, the BICE put Farouk on a plane to LaGuardia Airport, where his son Tariq and five of his supporters met him as a free man the night of Monday, April 12.
Farouk was a whirlwind of activity upon his release, speaking on WBAI and Democracy Now! and appearing at events in New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C. and Berkeley, California.
On July 21, 2004, at the Ethical Society in Philadelphia, Farouk gave an impassioned speech calling for unity in the fight against the oppression of human rights in the U.S. and in Palestine. Just as he finished his speech and the audience erupted in applause, Farouk fell forward onto the table. He never regained consciousness. He is believed to have died of a heart attack.
Farouk is remembered as a truly selfless man who literally gave his last breath in the cause of human rights. He is survived by his son, Tariq Abdel-Muhti, fiancÃ©e Sharin Chiorazzo, and an extended family of comrades and supporters.
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