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Ear to the Ground

Tarek Mehanna and the Isolation of American Muslims

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Posted on Apr 20, 2014

Photo by Smath. (CC BY 2.0)

News agency Inter Press Service offers an eerie report on the treatment of Muslims imprisoned for alleged involvement in “terror-related activity.” The article tells the story of Tarek Mehanna, a Pittsburgh-born Muslim currently serving a 17-year jail sentence 436 miles away in Terre Haute, Ind.

After enduring pressure to become an informant for the FBI, Mahenna was arrested on suspicion of giving false testimony to an agency official. He was released on bail and arrested a second time on accusations that he conspired to shoot up a shopping mall. According to the IPS article, no evidence was offered in court. The piece indicates the prosecution was based on his translation of an Arabic text called “39 Ways to Serve and Participate in Jihad,” records of online chats and the fact that he planned to accept a pharmaceutical job at a hospital in Saudi Arabia.

According to Mehanna’s brother Tamer, the prosecution was never able to present evidence that Tarek provided “material support to terrorism.” Experts say the case against Mehanna “represents one of the most salient examples of prosecution for thought crimes in U.S. legal history,” IPS reports.

The article also looks at the “extreme forms of solitary confinement” imposed on Muslim prisoners in Communication Management Units. As Alexis Agathocleous, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, explained to IPS:

These units are quite unparalleled within the federal prison system. … They segregate prisoners from the rest of the population and impose very strict restrictions on prisoners’ ability to communicate with the outside world – this translates to drastically reduced access to social telephone calls and visits, and when visits do occur they are strictly non-contact.

Of the roughly 80 prisoners held in Communication Management Units, Agathocleous estimates that between 66 and 72 percent are Muslims. Overall, Muslims make up just 6 percent of the federal prison population.

Agathocleous referred to this over-representation as “troubling.” He added: “There seems to be the use of religious profiling to select prisoners for CMU designation.”

Read more here.

—Posted by Donald Kaufman. 

—Posted by Donald Kaufman.

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