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"Innocent Muslim doctor tells of arrest, two-week ordeal "
October 1, 2001 1:11 PM   Subscribe

"Innocent Muslim doctor tells of arrest, two-week ordeal " San Antonio News-Express interview of Dr. Al Badr Al-Hazmi, the Saudi radiologist arrested--in error--by the FBI on 9/12. What happens after the G-men take you away.
posted by Carol Anne (36 comments total)

 
Harrowing story, but the reporter appears to have thrown out the notion of presenting more than one side. Neither the FBI nor Al-Hazmi's attorney were interviewed, even if just to state they declined to comment.
posted by rcade at 1:36 PM on October 1, 2001


This is an extraordinarily decent man. And he's absolutely right: His suffering is nothing compared to the suffering of the victims of the attack. Many injustices will occur in a time of emergency. But this man is a true gentleman. I salute him.
posted by Faze at 1:37 PM on October 1, 2001


This is an extraordinarily decent man. And he's absolutely right: His suffering is nothing compared to the suffering of the victims of the attack. Many injustices will occur in a time of emergency. But by his response to injustice, Al Badr Al-Hazmi has shown himself to be a true gentleman. I salute him.
posted by Faze at 1:39 PM on October 1, 2001


even tho he beat me to it, i'd like to echo Faze's sentiments. Al-Hazmi understanding and forgiveness is exactly what the world needs right now.
posted by danOstuporStar at 1:46 PM on October 1, 2001


This will probably get me slammed...but you have to admit that those are an unusual number of coincidences. Maybe not enough to warrent two weeks of incarceration, but...you know what? Better safe than sorry seems to be a good rule of thumb here.

I don't know...I feel sorry for him, but it's not like there wasn't some justification for their actions, however flimsy they looked when put to scrutiny.
posted by ColdChef at 1:50 PM on October 1, 2001


Imagine how much more effective they'll be when they can run secret military tribunals and simply pull people out of their homes, disappear them into jails, try and sentence them in secret without the benefit of attorneys, and execute them without anyone knowing. And all the FBI needs is a flimsy string of coincidences to do it.

Be very afraid.
posted by briank at 1:56 PM on October 1, 2001


Rogers, the FBI had several days where theirs was the only story out there. I believe their release of the doctor speaks volumes about how accurate that reporting was. It's especially ironic that this was the same period during which the President, the Attorney General, and the FBI Director all spoke out against anti-Arab discrimination.

Unfortunately, I fear there will be many more Dr. Al-Hazmis in our future.

His reaction is consistent with the Muslims that I know. It has a poignant resonance with the reaction of loyal Japanese-Americans, many of whom suffered their detention in silence.
posted by dhartung at 2:04 PM on October 1, 2001


I appreciate your sentiment, but "better safe than sorry" doesn't really apply to the American justice system does it? Isn't that in direct contradiction to its very foundation, innocent until proven guilty? I think a time of national--indeed international--emergency necessitates extra precautions, but I don't think it warrants the trampling of one's civil liberties. I do also have to acknowledge the biased perspective of this article. There are ALWAYS two sides to a story, and a responsible journalist should recognize and report both.
posted by athensltd at 2:05 PM on October 1, 2001


Isn't that in direct contradiction to its very foundation, innocent until proven guilty?

Exactly right.

But it makes me laugh to think people really believe that journalism is or can be unbiased. There are just too many sides to any story to be able to report them all. At some point, as a responsible journalist, you make choices and judgements and live with them.
posted by mjane at 2:14 PM on October 1, 2001


No, in response to ColdChef, it's not "better safe than sorry," and those coincidences aren't exactly significant© This doesn't do anything to shore up one's faith in the abilities of the FBI, who can so easily turn an innocent person into a suspect based on really bad evidence ¥but, we pretty much knew that¤©

I do wonder if the two Indian men he was put on the plane with are still in custody, if their detainment were warranted, etc©
posted by sherman at 2:24 PM on October 1, 2001


briank - I'm very confused - you wrote ...when they can run secret military tribunals and simply pull people out of their homes, disappear them into jails, try and sentence them in secret without the benefit of attorneys, and execute them without anyone knowing.... Just when and where in the Hell did you see that we were heading toward a police state? All I've seen is some tentative warnings that we may have to give a little (and a cascade of shouting about how we are going to lose our rights). There is an ocean of difference between giving up a little in the way of civil liberties and moving into a police state.
posted by kokogiak at 2:29 PM on October 1, 2001


Being held for being suspected of a crime isn't exactly a news flash, folks. Example: OJ got held for quite a while before they found out he was "innocent".
Simply being held, then released, is "trampling his civil liberty"? Maybe. But nowhere in the constitution does it say that you have the right not to be hassled by the government. Just be glad you don't live in China.
posted by dr_emory at 3:02 PM on October 1, 2001


Being held for being suspected of a crime isn't exactly a news flash, folks. Example: OJ got held for quite a while before they found out he was "innocent".
Simply being held, then released, is "trampling his civil liberty"? Maybe. But nowhere in the constitution does it say that you have the right not to be hassled by the government. Just be glad you don't live in China.
posted by dr_emory at 3:03 PM on October 1, 2001


emory: being held without being informed of the charges against you, without access to your attorney and without being allowed to call your family is "trampling his civil liberty". I'm sure the FBI had their reasons for detaining him, they didn't have any reasons for their treatment of him. It's in times like these that civil liberties are important, in times of emergency, when the individual's rights face more of a risk from the "public good", that's what the constitution is there for, IMNSHO.
posted by signal at 3:13 PM on October 1, 2001


I understand the point, but I don't think your illustration is a particularly good one. Was this guy fleeing from the law when he was arrested? No. He was in his house with his sleeping family. Was there a proponderance of evidence against him? No. He shared a common last name and itinerary with the suspected terrorists. And YES, in my opinion and the opinion of criminal law, being held without the right to an attorney or an explanation of the arrest charges before interrogation IS trampling one's civil liberties.
posted by athensltd at 3:16 PM on October 1, 2001


emory: being held without being informed of the charges against you, without access to your attorney and without being allowed to call your family is "trampling his civil liberty".

And being denied timely access to consular assistance is also a breach of Article 36 of the Vienna Convention. Looks like the FBI just rounded up the usual suspects.
posted by holgate at 3:28 PM on October 1, 2001


There was nothing, whatever, wrong with what happened to this man. Under the law, non-citizen immigrants have significantly fewer rights vis-a-vis pre-charge and pre-indictment detention. These laws are well known; persons who don't wish to be subject to them are welcome not to immigrate.

Just by point of comparison, an American studying in Saudia Arabia (and remember, Americans are almost never permitted to do anything in Saudi Arabia other than visit restricted tourist areas) could be arrested, tried and executed under Sharia (Islamic law) without ever having spoken to a lawyer. That guy is lucky to be here.
posted by MattD at 3:39 PM on October 1, 2001


What's even worse is that he was being held on a material witness warrant rather than an arrest warrant, so that there weren't any charges against him at the time of arrest. A nice follow-up to this story from the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Dr. Al-Hazmi has my sympathy and respect.
posted by bragadocchio at 3:51 PM on October 1, 2001


And remember that the local press here in San Antonio is practically begging for some sort of "connection" to the events of 9/11. Our 5:00 pm newcaster today practically drooled at the revelation that 2 of the terrorists (er..."alleged hijackers", for you PC types) may have actually lived in this town...nearly a year ago. Anything for a local angle, eh? SA has a serious inferiority complex about it's status as a *major* American city.

Back on topic...the good doctor was treated less than hospitably, overall, but certainly not cruelly, especially compared to treatment he might have recieved in many, many other countries. In light of the circumstances, I think the feds were justified in their actions. But just barely.
posted by davidmsc at 4:04 PM on October 1, 2001


It is a shame what happened to this man; but given the state of affairs during the crisis, and the incredible coincidences, I cannot fault the FBI. I would criticize them if they took no action, given the situation. However, this being said, this man deserves a public apology from the FBI.

Now, imagine how this man would have been treated if the scenario was a little different, say; he was suspected of plotting an attack on the Taliban?

Our republic may have its faults, but it is still the best system in the world.

Unfortunately, too many of the mefi's like to concentrate on the faults.
posted by Oxydude at 4:17 PM on October 1, 2001


Imagine if the man was on Mars, he wouldn't even have any oxygen and would in all probability die. And them image he was a bad man, and was sent to Hell, and Hitler was his painmaster and was whipping him with a cat o'nine tails tipped with broken glass. Then he'd be begging to be locked up by the FBI. Begging.

In sum, the man is lucky to be on this planet and lucky to be alive. Any maltreatment he might have had is a Sunday picnic compared to that.
posted by cell divide at 4:25 PM on October 1, 2001


From this I take you have a PhD in poli-sci and have travelled extensively around the world reviewing different systems, right? Or just watched a lot of Rambo flicks?oxydude:"Our republic may have its faults, but it is still the best system in the world."

From this I take you have a PhD in poli-sci and have travelled extensively around the world reviewing different systems, right? Or just watched a lot of Rambo flicks?
posted by signal at 5:00 PM on October 1, 2001


Amen. This guy is oh so lucky.

He'd better be glad he's not in some other countries. Why, did you know that in some parts of the world they actually execute mentally retarded people? (Oh wait, that's not going to work as an analogy...forget it...)

But like I was saying, this guy was lucky. We coulda done a lot worse things to him. And Our FBI is thorough in these times of emergency.

Like you probably remember that time when Oklahoma City was bombed there were thousands of white, crew-cut Army veterans who had recently rented Ryder trucks, and the FBI "detained" them in jail for two weeks without access to their lawyers.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 5:22 PM on October 1, 2001


I don't think it was terribly wrong for them to hold this man untill he could be questioned. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't, but under these...

On the other hand, it was no excuse for the way he was treated. Not letting him call his family, or a lawyer, or even telling him why he had been taken? I mean, WTF? All this based on a few coincidences, his choice of websites and airplane trips?

They should have treated him a lot better.
posted by delmoi at 5:27 PM on October 1, 2001


I am not, and will not, disagree that his treatment would have been much worse in another country. That isn't my point. This isn't another country, it's America. And in this country we have rights that are granted and protected by the Constitution.

If I may use an unpleasant and exaggerated example to illustrate my point: if a woman in the US is beaten by her husband, is our sentiment "well, she would have been treated worse in another country"? You see, in other countries, like Afghanistan, a woman lives her entire life oppressed. Does that mean the woman in the US who was beaten should take solace, should consider herself lucky because she has freedoms unknown to other women. Of course not. It's not a fair comparison. Just as saying this guy should be thankful he doesn't live China (or, I guess Mars for that matter) is not fair.
posted by athensltd at 5:51 PM on October 1, 2001


I didn't really think of it before, but the fact that the guy isn't a US citizen is pretty important to this discussion. MattD makes a good point. We never said that we would provide non citizens with the same protection that citizens enjoy (using we in the figurative sense, of course).
And don't get me wrong, I'm sympathetic to the man--he did nothing wrong, and his life was (briefly) pulled up by the roots. Combine that awful situation, a foreign national that fits the profile of the suspects, and a pile of circumstantial (but still alarming) evidence and I consider the FBI's action to be not too bad.

Oh, and another thing. Just so Mefi stays interesting, why don't some of you Gap-wearing, $3000 computer using, Starbucks-drinking, SprintPCS-using, Jansport-backed pseudo-anarchists get a j-o-b and stop repeating the same thing over and over about how America sucks. Or at least put an original spin on it. (ignore this if it doesn't apply to you.)
posted by dr_emory at 6:13 PM on October 1, 2001


That is the funniest thing I've read all week!
posted by josh at 6:19 PM on October 1, 2001


This guy is a very decent man. I would like to think there's some way to avoid such an ordeal, but I'm not sure that's realistic. Something should be done to compensate him in a meaningful way.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:31 PM on October 1, 2001


Kokogiak -- you'll recall this thread from just a couple of days ago, and perhaps you might have seen/heard, as I have, other stories in the last two weeks about the government seeking to skip due process for suspected terrorists in favor of military tribunals closed to the public and the press. That's what I'm talking about.
posted by briank at 6:38 PM on October 1, 2001


get a j-o-b and stop repeating the same thing over and over about how America sucks

Spoken like a true Texan, Dr_Emory!
posted by ColdChef at 7:04 PM on October 1, 2001


Spoken like a true troll, Dr_Emory!
posted by websavvy at 7:16 PM on October 1, 2001


Isn't that what I said?
posted by ColdChef at 7:38 PM on October 1, 2001


Rogers, the FBI had several days where theirs was the only story out there. I believe their release of the doctor speaks volumes about how accurate that reporting was.

It's not standard practice in journalism to write a one-sided story as a counterbalance to other one-sided coverage.

The doctor's attorney could have offered a lot of relevant information, especially in regard to what the FBI told him at the different points in the two-week incarceration. The FBI should have been given an opportunity to comment.

The story doesn't even bother to explain that his extended detention without a charge was something introduced after Sept. 11 at the behest of the Bush Administration.

As I said before, the man's account of his ordeal is harrowing stuff. But when a reporter presents a story in such a one-sided way that she puts the word "evidence" in quotes, it's hard to trust her work.
posted by rcade at 8:05 PM on October 1, 2001


Congrats, dr_emory, you win this week's Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius Award of the Week (TM)!

(The Wile E. Coyote Super Genius Awards are a registered trademark of yours truly. OK, not really, but they could be!)
posted by zeb vance at 8:25 PM on October 1, 2001


Clearly, this man undeservedly suffered bad treatment. Ideally, the FBI should have gotten their chance to interview him and release him within hours to clear up the errors. But under the circumstances, his treatment ought to be understandible. The FBI doesn't have unlimited resources or perfect efficiency. They would rather error on the side hassling some innocents, rather than let the guilty go free.

Whoever said "Merry Christmas" when they handed this innocent man his soap and threads deserves the shitty job they have.
posted by Loudmax at 9:21 PM on October 1, 2001


briank - Ack. Thanks for the back-link. I hadn't read that before. I still doubt we're heading down any sort of road to a police state, but it is very disturbing to read that military tribunals are being considered as future means to 'justice'.
posted by kokogiak at 10:03 PM on October 1, 2001


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