A former congressional staffer moved back to Pakistan after right-wing media outlets accused him of running a "Muslim spy ring."
Imran Awan came to the U.S. with his family as a teenager and eventually became a shared IT employee for dozens of House Democrats, and found similar jobs for three relatives and a friend, but he lost his job and said his life fell apart after the right-wing Daily Caller pushed conspiracy theories that were amplified by GOP lawmakers and then-president Donald Trump, reported The Daily Beast.
“It was just overwhelming,” Awan told The Daily Beast. “I wanted to end my life, and I attempted to end my life. It was such a bad, bad thing. I remember just having the most incredible amount of depression where I just wanted to kill myself.”
Awan has since returned to his native Pakistan and has sued the Daily Caller and its former reporter Luke Rosiak, who pushed the conspiracy theories, for defamation, and a judge ruled last month that Awan and his family don't qualify as “limited-use public figures,” which strengthens their case against the right-wing website and its parent company Salem Media.
“While they destroyed our lives, they made money,” Awan said. “Daily Caller made money, Luke Rosiak made money, Salem Media made money.”
The conspiracy theories eventually led to Awan's arrest in 2017 on bank fraud charges related to two home-equity loans he took out with his wife, and were unrelated to his work for House members, and Trump, GOP lawmakers and conservative broadcasters continued smearing him as the hacker who had stolen the DNC servers.
“The servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC are missing,” Trump said at the time.
Awan pleaded guilty to making a false statement related to the loans, but U.S. District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan said Awan had faced “baseless accusations” and “scurrilous media attention” when sentencing him to three months of supervised release, and the Justice Department made clear they found no evidence that he had stolen or tampered with House technology equipment or stolen any data.
“If I was a white guy, with all due respect, nothing would have happened,” Awan said.