Delaying Abdullah’s autopsy could raise questions about investigation

http://www.freep.com/article/20100128/BLOG2505/100128042/1068/OPINION/Delaying-Abdullahs-autopsy-could-raise-questions-about-investigation-

Delaying Abdullah’s autopsy could raise questions about investigation

By Jeff Gerritt

Wayne County is expected to release the autopsy of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah by Monday, after Dearborn police wrap up an investigation into the shooting of the Islamic leader. The autopsy, including photos, should stir local, national and international headlines. What happens next is unclear, with U.S. Rep. John Conyers and local leaders such as Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Michigan, calling for an independent investigation. It’s likely, though, that Wayne County’s decision to delay the release of the autopsy, at the request of Dearborn Police, will only fuel skepticism and controversy by suggesting — even if unfairly — that the government hasn’t come clean.

Transparency and openness are the best ways to deal with suspicion and fear. Legal questions aside, I don’t get what Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad, a respected former deputy chief of the Detroit Police Department, thinks he has to gain by delaying the release of the autopsy, or why Wayne County went along. If Haddad could stop the autopsy’s release indefinitely, I could understand why he would want to do it. But the report and photos are coming out, anyway. It’s only a question of when. Delaying it just creates the kind of skepticism, suspicion and second-guessing Haddad wants to avoid. Dearborn police have nothing to hide. They were not involved in the shooting by federal agents of Abdullah, 53, during a raid at a Dearborn warehouse on Oct. 28. He was reportedly shot by agents after Abdullah shot an unleashed police dog, despite official reports that he fired on agents.

Detroit Free Press reporter Niraj Warikoo submitted a freedom of information request for the autopsy in November, but the county formally rejected the request this month, citing the investigation by Dearborn police. Last month, Haddad told me releasing the autopsy before his investigation was done would create a “great distraction.’’

But as a government official, that’s not his call to make — or shouldn’t be. I hope the Dearborn police investigation gets a fair hearing by the community, but withholding the autopsy will probably make it harder. (It’s worth noting that the FBI, which is conducting its own investigation, did not request that the autopsy be withheld.)

Nor will either the autopsy or Dearborn investigation address the broader questions of how the government uses informants in mosques and other houses of worships. This story isn’t going away any time soon.

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