Backers of Farouk Abdel-Muhti, a Palestinian revolutionary jailed in the United States under threat of deportation, march November 29 in Newark, New Jersey, to demand his release.
Demonstrators who came from New York and New Jersey distributed leaflets to bystanders on the busy street and carried placards that read: 582 days jailed by INS [Immigration and Naturalization Service] and BICE [Bureau of Immigration Customs and Enforcement]; 253 days in solitary: why? and Stop racial profiling by the INS police.
The protest was called by the Committee for the Release of Farouk Abdel-Muhti. Immigration authorities say they will hold him until they can carry out a 1995 deportation order. Abdel-Muhtis supporters say that the government must release him since he is stateless, having been born in Palestine.
Before his jailing Abdel-Muhti had repeatedly spoken out in defense of Palestinian self-determination, as he has continued to do since.
In the week leading up to the protest, the committee campaigned to draw attention to a November 19 assault on the Palestinian by guards at the Bergen County jail in Hackensack, New Jersey. The prison cops confiscated reading material and medicines as they kicked Abdel-Muhti to the ground, punched him, and told him to shut the f___ up and to go back to Palestine. Among the seized publications were the Militant, the Revolutionary Worker, the Northstar Compass, and pamphlets by the Partisan Defense Committee.
On November 25 the prison authorities moved Abdel-Muhti into solitary confinement, where he has been kept for most of his time in jail in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In a statement that day, the committee described the move as apparently a disciplinary proceeding connected to the beating.
Prison officials claim they are punishing Abdel-Muhti because the guards discovered that he had stockpiled newspapers and medicine in his cell, the statement said. Prison officials also withheld all medication from Abdel-Muhti between November 19 and November 25. The 56-year-old, it added, needs medication for hypertension, arthritis, and a thyroid condition.
The committee noted that the Palestinians treatment follows a pattern of harassment of Abdel-Muhti for his political activities.
At the rally that followed the Newark march, Abdel-Muhtis son Tarik spoke on behalf of the defense campaign. He reported that in light of the guards assault, the committee had decided to file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations.
Defense committee coordinator David Wilson read a message from Abdel-Muhti written before his latest transfer to the hole. The Palestinian reported that he was living with 64 other immigration detainees.
Before I came here, Abdel-Muhti continued, I was held for eight months and five days in solitary confinement in York County Prison, in York, Pennsylvania. Shackles were placed on my hands and feet on a daily basis; I was locked in for 23 hours and 15 minutes each day. In all, I have been imprisoned for one year and seven months. But I never give up on my principles and my dignity.
Among the speakers at the rally were representatives of Al Awdathe Palestine Right to Return Coalition; the Committee for the Human Rights of Immigrants; One Peoples Project; the Partisan Defense Committee, and the Freedom Socialist Party.
Róger Calero, a Militant staff writer and Perspectiva Mundial editor who recently defeated an attempt by the U.S. government to deport him, also spoke. The Militant is one of the publications the prison authorities confiscated from Farouk, he said. We urge you to join the campaign to send letters to the prison authorities demanding that Farouk be released from the hole immediately, and that all of his reading materials and other possessions be returned.
Wilson reported that following the prison guards assault on Abdel-Muhti, dozens of people responded to an appeal for protest messages to the authorities. He encouraged participants to continue this campaign. Messages should be sent to David Venturella at the Office of Detention and Removal, Department of Homeland Security: fax (202) 353-9435; telephone (202) 514-8663; e-mail: email@example.com, with copies to the defense committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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