New York activists remember Farouk Abdel-Muhti

“¡Farouk Vive! ¡La Lucha Sigue!”
Vigil Commemorating the Life of Farouk Abdel-Muhti

New York-based Palestinian activist Farouk Abdel-Muhti died suddenly of a heart attack on July 21, 2004, three weeks before his 57th birthday and 100 days after he was released from immigration detention. Federal agents and New York City police arrested Farouk in April 2002, just as he was beginning to work as a producer of segments on Palestine at New York’s WBAI-FM. The US government then held him in a series of county and federal facilities for nearly two years—in clear violation of his constitutional rights—and refused to release him until ordered to do so by a federal district judge.

Now, as Israeli renews its assaults against Gaza and Lebanon, we need to remember Farouk’s lifelong struggle for peace with justice and for the rights of Palestinians, of immigrants and of workers everywhere. Join us in front of the Federal Building, where we vigiled for Farouk’s release each Friday at noon, to rededicate ourselves to carrying on his work.

Remember Farouk, and call for a free Palestine. Demand an end to US-backed Israeli violence in Gaza & Lebanon. ¡Hasta la victoria siempre!

Friday, July 21, 2006, noon to 1 PM

At the Federal Building, 26 Federal Plaza
Broadway at Worth Street
(Take the 4/5/6 or N/R to City Hall, or the A/C/E to Chambers St)

Speakers to be announced.
For more information and to endorse:

Committee for the Release of Farouk Abdel-Muhti
PO Box 20587, Tompkins Square Station, New York, NY 10009
Phone: 212-674-9499 * Email

See our our last post on Farouk Abdel-Muhti.

  1. Press coverage
    From Patterson Herald News, July 22:

    NEW YORK – Friends of Farouk Abdel-Muhti, a Palestinian who supporters said shed light on the treatment of immigration detainees in the U.S., gathered Friday to commemorate the second anniversary of his death.

    Abdel-Muhti died of a heart attack at age 56 in July of 2004 – just 100 days after winning his release from federal immigration detention. He had been held for nearly two years at several facilities in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania – including a lengthy stint at the Passaic County Jail, where he organized a detainee hunger strike to denounce conditions and treatment there.

    A handful of Abdel-Muhti’s supporters and friends – including two of the lawyers who helped win his release – held a memorial vigil Friday afternoon in front of the federal immigration offices at 26 Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan. They carried posters bearing his photograph, and placards urging the liberation of the Palestinian people, the release of immigration detainees, and a cessation to the escalating hostilities in the Middle East.

    Several spoke of Abdel-Muhti’s efforts on behalf of both his native and adopted homelands.

    “He called attention to the plight of the Palestinian people,” said Sharin Chiorazzo of Galloway Township, who said she was Abdel-Muhti’s former fiancee. “He was a stateless Palestinian refugee, and through him, a lot of the detainee issues came to the fore.”

    Chiorazzo referred to the fact that Abdel-Muhti, who emigrated from Palestine in 1960, was eventually determined to be a “stateless” refugee – a fact that rendered him un-deportable from the U.S. after he was refused repatriation by Israel – whose residency records only date back to 1967.

    Unable to resolve the issue, the U.S government kept Abdel-Muhti in detention well beyond the maximum six months allowed under federal immigration law.

    He had first been picked up in 2002 on an immigration violation, as part of a wide post-Sept. 11 sweep that sought to question immigrants of Arab, Middle Eastern and South Asian descent. Charged with violating a previous deportation order which had never been enforced, Abdel-Muhti maintained his arrest was an effort by the U.S. government to silence his outspokenness on Palestinian causes and wider human rights issues.

    Activist Tommy Silva of Paterson, a member of the New Jersey Civil Rights Defense Committee, said at Friday’s vigil that he believed detention conditions at facilities like the Passaic County Jail contributed to Abdel-Muhti’s death, although Abdel-Muhti previously suffered from high blood pressure.

    “The abuse that went on there, the poor dietary and health conditions; basically the system killed him,” Silva said of Abdel-Muhti. “They destroyed him physically, but not mentally, because he came out speaking just as eloquently as when he went in.”

    Conditions and treatment of immigration detainees at facilities including the Passaic County Jail have been the focus of an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – the agency which ultimately oversees U.S. immigration agencies. DHS was due to present its findings to Congress last spring, but the release of the report has been repeatedly delayed. Word of the impending federal investigation, repeated complaints of poor treatment by detainees at the jail, and continuous protests from advocates contributed to the Passaic County Jail’s suspension last December of its arrangement to house federal immigration detainees.

    Describing Abdel-Muhti’s case as “an epic journey through the federal judiciary system,” lawyer Shayana Kadidal of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who helped win his release, told the assembled group Friday that there are still thousands of immigrant detainees being held past federally mandated time limits.

    “There’s still a lot of work left to be done out there in the detention system,” he said. “For cases just like Farouk’s.”