Lawsuits filed in killing of Imam
Police ‘suppressing evidence’
By Zenobia Jeffries
DETROIT — The Michigan Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) has filed three lawsuits against the Michigan State Police Department, the Dearborn Police Department and the Detroit Police Department for failing to release information in the October 2009 killing of Detroit Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah.
Officers from the three law enforcement departments were present when Abdullah was shot to death during an FBI raid of a Dearborn warehouse, October 28, 2009. The warehouse raid, and subsequent raids that followed the same day at Abdullah’s home in Detroit and the Masjid al-Haqq Mosque, also in Detroit, were part of an investigation of an alleged stolen goods operation.
According to CAIR-MI’s complaints, filed Aug. 3 against the MSPD and August 9, against the Dearborn and Detroit Police Departments, Abdullah was shot a total of 21 times, including twice in the back and mauled by an FBI-K-9 (attack dog).
CAIR-MI’s staff attorney Lena Masri announced at a recent press conference that the organization plans to file additional lawsuits against other governmental agencies involved in the raids.
“The Michigan State Police, Dearborn Police Department, Detroit Police Department, and other governmental agencies, have unjustifiably suppressed evidence that the public has a right to access. [This] suppression of evidence has fueled suspicion among Muslim Americans, African Americans, and the civil rights community at large,” Masri said.
Masri says the purpose of the lawsuits is to determine whether the use of deadly force against the Imam was justified and whether his civil rights and the civil rights of members of the Masjid al-Haqq mosque were violated. The mosque was raided during evening prayer.
“The goal is to find the truth,” says Masri.
The lawsuits follow multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that have gone unanswered.
Attorneys for CAIR-MI stated in the suit that the “[agencies’] denial regarding the disclosure of public records is arbitrary and capricious.”
“It’s tragic that in every single effort made to publicly seek information — that the public is entitled to — they have been stonewalled at every turn. We are going to fight vigorously … to bring out the truth,” said Julie Hurwitz, one of CAIR-MI attorneys.
Hurwitz says the only evidence so far suggests – “strongly”— that Imam Luqman was defending himself against a deadly attack by the dog.
She says the lack of response from the law enforcement departments is disingenuous.
“It’s an indirect and evasive response under the law. Nobody is claiming we are not entitled to these records,” Hurwitz said.
Executive Director of CAIR-MI, Dawud Walid, said clarity on the protocol of using informants and agent provocateurs for counter-terrorism purposes is also what the organization is in search of. He says at least one of the informants posed as a Muslim and had been in the mosque as a member for approximately two years.
Walid raised numerous questions regarding the FBI investigation leading to the raid.
“If they were looking for terrorism or treason and didn’t find it, then why did they hang around so long? Did the informants introduce a criminal enterprise that was not ongoing?” Walid queried in a telephone interview with the Michigan Citizen.
“A man lost his life in a very provocative raid that had nothing to do with terrorism or extremism.”
Walid says the government seemed to have used two different protocols when comparing the investigation and raid of Imam Abdullah and the investigation and raid of the Hutaree Christian Militia.
In March of this year nine members of the Hutaree were arrested and indicted following raids in Michigan, Indianapolis and Ohio.
It was reported the group is anti-government and allegedly planned to kill law enforcement officers.
There was no use of deadly force — gun-fire, explosive devices, attack dogs — used in the raids.
“Imam Abdullah was killed in a raid [of activity] organized by the government,” Walid said.
He says Abdullah’s death would not have taken place if agent provocateurs had not arranged the situation and lured Abdullah into the warehouse.
Walid says there are two main focuses of the lawsuit: Seeking greater transparency, and proper protocol on the use of confidential informants in houses of worship.
A coalition of civil rights organizations — Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) of Michigan, NAACP, ACLU, Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice — along with Congressman John Conyers and the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality have joined CAIR-MI in support of challenging law enforcement’s suppression of information.
“We know Imam was bitten several times on both sides of his face by a dog; we know that his body was removed from the area where they say it happened; we know that his body was handcuffed. So, if there is nothing to hide, why don’t these agencies release this information,” said Michael Grace, president of the Michigan Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Grace said the SCLC supports CAIR-MI in their request to have U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder get involved and hold an investigation from the federal level.
Rev. David Bullock of the Highland Park NAACP echoed Grace’s support of CAIR.
“We stand in solidarity with the Islamic community and in solidarity with the Imam’s family,” Bullock said.
Bullock said the case of Imam Abdullahs’ death is not a case that the coalition is going to let grow “deaf or silent.”
He says they will continue to fight for transparency and accountability.
“Who polices the police? Who watches over the government? Who makes sure that our rights are protected?” Bullock asked during the press conference.
“We’re here to say that we are those people.”
Bullock says the communities are coming together to discover the truth.
“[Imam Abdullah] was not just a religious leader he was a father, a husband,” Bullock said. “The family [of Imam Abdullah] deserves to know what really happened.
Ron Scott of the DCAPB says some members of the coalition met with Atty. General Holder who says they [the federal government] will “look into it.”
“The litigation is indicative of agencies not following their own dictates under the law,” Scott said.
Walid says it’s the organization’s position that there has been a systematic suppression of information and that the organization has requested Holder to conduct a civil rights investigation into the killing of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah and review the FBI’s protocol and standards in the use of confidential informants.
Masri says they believe the information being requested, which includes death scene photographs of Abdullah; death scene photographs of FBI K-9 Freddy; Abdullah’s weapon; bullets that caused the death of Freddy, any and all firearms discharged, bullets that caused the death of Abdullah, any and all percussion grenades detonated, as well as surveillance videos of the warehouse, will shed light on the circumstances that led up to the raids of the warehouse, the mosque and Abdullah’s home, as well as the shooting that led to Abdullah’s death.
“[We expect the information] will determine the extent of involvement of each of the entities and officers that were present,” said Masri.
Congressman Conyers sent a statement to be read during the conference in his absence assuring all concerned that the investigation of Abdullah was ongoing.
“[My] staff has been in touch with the Justice Department who has assured us that the investigation is ongoing and will be thorough and ‘aggressive.’”
Conyers encouraged the coalition to “keep the pressure on” the justice department.