Fighting for His Rights from Behind Bars

CAIR-Chicago’s Civil Rights Interns visit a Federal Prison
Civil Rights Interns Ausaf Farooqi and Azam Khan visited Mr. Enaam Arnaout on Friday, July 21st at the Federal Prison in Oxford, Wisconsin in order to assist him with his civil rights claims. In the three hour visit, the two interns spoke with Arnaout about his case, as well as his former role as an activist in the Muslim community and his life in prison. Khan described Arnaout as “a charismatic guy,” whom he had an enjoyable experience meeting. Even in his difficult circumstances, Arnaout is determined in his struggle to confront the injustices done to him.

Enaam Arnaout is the former director of the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), whose mission included providing humanitarian assistance throughout the world, benefiting civilian populations. Arnaout became director of BIF in 1993, and from then on was responsible for all of the organization’s dealings.

In February 2003, Arnaout pled guilty to conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act; the main offense was wire and mail fraud. Unfortunately, due to the post 9/11 atmosphere, Arnaout’s case was warped into another victory in the war on terror. Despite the judge’s repeated assertion that Enaam Arnaout’s case was not linked in any way to terrorism, the government’s attorneys and the media portrayed the case as such. As a result, Arnaout’s reputation preceded him in prison, and he has been the subject of daily harassment and abuse since.

Farooqi and Khan are currently assisting Arnaout with two civil rights claims.

Firstly, Arnaout’s First Amendment rights have been violated, in terms of freedom of religion and speech. Mr. Arnaout is not allowed to use Arabic when performing religious obligations, and has even been placed into solitary confinement for teaching Arabic to other inmates when he had clearance from the prison administration to do so.

Secondly, under the Eighth Amendment, Arnaout faced cruel and unusual punishment because he was forced to perform manual labor even though he was suffering from a severe back condition. For several months, Arnaout was deprived of adequate medical care. He was instead given overdoses of painkillers to deal with the pain, and placed into solitary confinement when he complained of the pain and asked to see the prison physician. It was not until the court ordered an MRI that Arnaout, several months after the order, was given one.

Enaam Arnaout’s charges are those of a white collar crime; however he is being treated as if he committed treason, as Civil Rights Intern Khan relayed. CAIR-Chicago’s civil rights department will be assisting Arnaout with setting up his claims. With his strong will and conviction, Mr. Enaam Arnaout is a wonderful example of availing those rights promised to us in the US Constitution, and truly demanding the respect that comes along with being a citizen of the United States of America, regardless of race, ethnicity, or religious belief.

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