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February 10, 2010

American Imam shot to death by FBI agents

Scott Stockdale

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The American Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) is calling for an independent investigation into a highly controversial October 28 raid, in which a Detroit area imam was shot to death by FBI agents.

A recently released autopsy report shows that Luqman Ameen Abdullah, community activist and Imam of Masjid Al-Haqq Mosque in Detroit, was found handcuffed and shot 21 times – once in the back – in a Dearborn-area warehouse. The FBI was trying to arrest him and 10 others on suspicion of dealing in stolen goods. 

“The shocking details of the imam’s autopsy raise a number of disturbing questions that need to be answered,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of the MPAC's Michigan chapter.

“First of all, did the FBI agents follow established procedure when they shot the imam 21 times? How was the imam shot in the back? Was it proper procedure to handcuff either a dead body or a mortally wounded suspect? If the agents found the imam alive following the shooting, did they call for medical assistance? All these questions need answers.”

The autopsy was completed a month after Mr. Abdullah's death, but Dearborn police were granted a delay in releasing the results while they investigated the Oct. 28 shooting, Dr. Carl Schmidt, Wayne County's chief medical examiner said.

The FBI says agent were trying to arrest Mr. Abdullah when he resisted and fired a gun, killing an FBI dog.

Dr. Schmidt said Mr. Abdullah died instantly.

“You cannot tell by the gunshot wounds whether he was lying down, standing up, or sitting when he was shot,” Dr. Schmidt said. “It's impossible to say which one was the fatal gunshot wound. It was a combination of gunshot wounds.”

Mr. Abdullah's son Omar Regan, 34, said he's particularly concerned that his father was reportedly shot in his genitalia region. He added that because more than half of the 21 gunshot wounds were below the waist, his father must have been lying down when many of these shots were fired.

Meanwhile, House Judiciary Committe Chairman John Conyers has sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, in which he stated: "I write seeking your personal assurance that the department's investigation into the shooting death of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah will be appropriately rigorous, thorough, and -- most critically -- transparent. In addition, I call for the Department's Civil Rights Division to conduct a separate, independent review of whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation's use of confidential informants in our nation's houses of worship may constitute a deprivation of protected constitutional rights.”

He added that government informers visited and surreptitiously recorded statements at Imam Abdullah's mosque.

The FBI says Imam Abdullah was spreading a radical anti-government ideology that called for an Islamic state within the U.S. His family denies this. There were no terror-related charges.

Congressman Conyers said that many, such as Detroit Mayor David Bing, the Michigan Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Detroit Free Press have called for an independent, outside review, arguing that the Justice Department and the FBI cannot fairly investigate their own conduct in this matter.

In his letter, Congressman Conyers said that because U.S. national security currently depends heavily on positive relations with Muslim communities in the United States and around the world, the controversy surrounding Imam Abdullah's shooting is especially destructive.

Although the FBI and Muslim and Arab-American leaders across the U.S. have worked to build a relationship of trust since the terror attacks of 2001, sharing information both to fight terrorism and protect the interests of mosques and communities, Congressman Conyers said those relations have reached a low point in recent months, in part due to several high-profile cases in which informers have infiltrated mosques and helped promote plots.

“This issue does not affect Muslims alone. Our nation was founded in part on the principle of religious freedom, and people of faiths should be free to worship without undue fear that the person in the next pew is a government agents ... Fears such as these may be most profoundly felt in our Muslim communities right now, but they are present among people of all faiths. To address them, there must be a full review of the government's use of undercover agents in American houses of worship,” Congressman Conyers said.

Scott Stockdale is a freelance writer based in Toronto.

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