Underwear bomber sues, says rights violated in prison

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

A man convicted of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day in 2009 has filed a federal lawsuit saying that his constitutional rights, including his ability to practice his religion and meet his dietary needs, are being violated in a Colorado prison.

In a complaint filed last week, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, known as the underwear bomber, alleges that communication restrictions, including solitary confinement, imposed on him “are an unconstitutional deprivation of his First Amendment rights to free speech and association.” He also alleges violations of the Fifth and Eighth Amendments, and says he’s been frequently harassed over his religion during prayer times, when “white supremacist inmates ... often curse, yell, scream and say things that are religiously insulting and offensive to Muslims ...”

“Prison walls do not form a barrier separating prison inmates from the protections of the United States Constitution,” the filing states.

The lawsuit also states that some corrections officers have displayed pornographic magazines at prayer times, further offending him. “Corrections officers have also defiled religious items in Mr. Abdulmutallab’s cell, such as his Muslim prayer rug and Qu’ran.”

“This harassment has rendered it extremely difficult for Mr. Abdulmutallab to manage the difficulties of the harsh conditions of solitary confinement by taking solace in his religion and religious practices,” the lawsuit states.

Abdulmutallab, who is Muslim, has gone on a hunger strike to protest his treatment, but has been force fed, the suit says, which violates his religion. As a result, he has “been physically injured and continues to face an unconstitutional risk of physical injury, and he has suffered psychological pain, injury, and emotional distress and continues to face an unconstitutional risk of psychological pain, injury and emotional distress.”

The 73-page complaint filed in the District of Colorado also claims Abdulmutallab is forced to eat foods that are in violation of his religion.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and John Does 1-20.

He is serving four life terms plus 50 years for convictions for the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction on an airliner that landed in Detroit and the attempted murder of 289 people on board. He pleaded guilty without a plea deal for his failed attempt to blow up the airliner over Metro Detroit with a bomb in his underwear. He was sentenced at age 23 on Feb. 16, 2012.

A month after his conviction, Abdulmutallab was transferred to a maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado, ADX, where he was placed in indefinite, long-term solitary confinement, the lawsuit states.

At one point, he was not allowed to communicate with his sister, he says. Abdulmutallab still is prohibited from communicating with his 13 nieces and nephews, the filing says.

He is asking for acknowledgment that his First Amendment rights have been violated as well as his rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. He also is seeking removal from solitary confinement and a permanent injunction ordering Sessions remove the Special Administrative Measures and prohibit future attorneys general from re-imposing the measures.

Abdulmutallab also seeks a halal-certified diet and regular access to an imam. The lawsuit states that since Abdulmutallab has been incarcerated he has not been able to participate in group prayer, which is in accordance to his religious beliefs. ADX prohibits prisoners from congregational prayer.


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