Justice Dept. to probe ‘unanswered questions’ in FBI shooting of imam
Activist group calls shooting ‘targeted assassination’; CAIR says videotape of incident may exist
The Justice Department is reportedly planning to launch an investigation into the shooting death of a Detroit-area imam last fall, an event one activist group describes as a “targeted assassination.”
As Raw Story reported yesterday, a long-delayed medical examiner’s report into the Oct. 28, 2009, death of Luqman Ameen Abdullah found he had been shot 21 times during a firefight with the FBI, including once in the back. The medical examiner found Abdullah’s body with his wrists handcuffed behind his back.
Now, according to US House Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the Justice Department’s civil rights division will investigate the shooting.
“On the surface, someone being shot 21 times raises quite a few questions in the criminal justice system,” Conyers told the Detroit News.
The autopsy “still left many unanswered questions,” reports the Detroit Free Press, pointing to the coroner’s assertion that Abdullah’s body was found handcuffed.
“The FBI told the investigator that when ‘officers arrived, officers asked to see his hands, and they informed him that if he didn’t comply, they were going to send a dog in.’ Agents said they opened fire after Abdullah shot the dog,” the Free Press reported.
The suspicions surrounding Abdullah’s death have caused some civil-rights activists to suggest the incident may have been more than an FBI raid gone wrong.
Abayomi Azikiwe of the Michigan Emergency Committee against War and Injustice called Abdullah’s death a “targeted assassination,” reports the Detroit News.
Although the FBI has described Abdullah as “a separatist Muslim intent on overthrowing the United States government,” according to the New York Times, the bureau says it was investigating the leader of the 25-family mosque in connection with illegal weapons and fencing of stolen goods.
In an interview with Fox Channel 2 in Detroit late last week, Dawud Walid of the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said the incident could reverberate throughout the global Muslim community, potentially hurting the US’s image in the Muslim world.
“Al-Jazeera, which is the most watched TV station in the Middle East, ran a story about this situation just two weeks ago,” Walid said. “I’m being cautious, but I don’t think this will be met very well in the Muslim world.”
And indeed the story does seem to be gaining attention in the Muslim world, with the Web site of Iran’s state-run Press TV running a story on the coroner’s report Tuesday, under the headline “FBI shot Muslim prayer leader 20 times.”
Walid told the Detroit News he believes there may be videotape of the shooting, because the warehouse where the incident happened was controlled by the FBI, as part of its sting operation against Abdullah.
On Monday, Walid filed a Freedom of Information request with the federal government asking for more information on the shooting, including any videotape of the incident that may exist.
Not everyone agrees that the circumstances of Abdullah’s death are suspicious.
“You can’t draw any conclusions whatsoever by the number of times a person is struck by a bullet,” defense lawyer and former prosecutor John Freeman told the Free Press. “The determination on whether anything was excessive has to be made on the totality of the circumstances, including what the deceased was doing and what he was perceived to have been doing.”