At 5:50 a.m. on April 26, when Farouk Abdel-Muhti’s roommate asked the three plainclothes officials pounding on his door in Queens if they had a warrant, they screamed back, “We don’t need a fucking warrant!” An hour later Abdel-Muhti was in cuffs, taken into custody on a seven-year-old deportation order. He has been in the U.S. for 25 years.
Portrait of a detainee. Born in Palestine in 1947, Farouk Abdel-Muhti grew up in refugee camps. As a young man, he became politically active, not only in the Middle East, but also in Central America.
After arriving in the U.S. in 1977, he raised money to relieve conditions in the refugee camps, helped to organize tours of the West Bank, and was always available to the media for an opinion, or to help locate sources. Because of his fluency in Spanish, he was especially valuable to the Spanish-speaking media and community.
Just five weeks before he was picked up, Abdel-Muhti began hosting a regular radio show focusing on the occupied territories for over a million listeners on WBAI, the New York City Pacifica station. He broadcast firsthand accounts from Jenin during the Israeli incursion and cell-phone reports from inside the Church of the Nativity during the siege.
No crime but his politics. On a lawyer’s advice, Abdel-Muhti called and set up several meetings with the cops to discuss his immigration status, but the cops could never find time to meet. His immigration status became the pretext for his detention.
Early on April 26, two NYPD detectives and one INS agent, accompanied by uniformed cops, arrived at the home of activist and city employee Bernard McFall, where Abdel-Muhti was staying. They were obscene, loud and abusive. They shouted that they would break the door down, that they had information that firearms and explosives were in the apartment, and that a SWAT team was on the way. Meanwhile, Abdel-Muhti was on the phone with his lawyer. She advised him to surrender to authorities, and he did. As they were leaving, one of the cops turned to McFall and said, “We’ll get you next.”
Abdel-Muhti was taken to federal facilities, roughed up and interrogated. He was threatened with being “repatriated” to Israel, where, he was told, Mossad intelligence agents had some questions they wanted to ask him. He was not allowed to talk to his lawyer.
The next day he was moved to the Middlesex County jail in North Brunswick, New Jersey, where he was held with detainees from all over the world. When he complained about needing his medications for high blood pressure, asthma and diabetes, a guard told him that if he didn’t like it where he was, they could move him to Tel Aviv.
After a few months there, he was transferred to a facility in Camden, New Jersey, probably to separate him from a group of prisoners who had issued a denunciation of prison conditions and the assault on civil liberties.
Farouk Abdel-Muhti has been held for five months without being charged with a crime. He is in prison because he is an effective activist resisting the occupation of Palestine.
He is a political prisoner.
Donations for his defense and inquiries about how to help may be sent to: Committee for the Release of Farouk Abdel-Muhti, c/o Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012.