[Asma Mobin-Uddin is a Columbus pediatrician and vice president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Ohio chapter.]
While in federal custody for seven months, Nuradin Abdi changed from a normal person to a damaged human being for whom the court ordered a psychiatric evaluation. Taken into custody on an immigration charge at the end of November 2003 in Columbus, Abdi later was accused of plotting to blow up an Ohio shopping mall in an indictment unsealed on June 14. Abdi’s mental state in court and the manner in which the accusations against him were made public raise troubling questions.
Those who knew Abdi before he was taken into custody describe him as a friendly community member who was helpful to others around him. After seeing him in court in June, they were shocked at how different he was and described him twitching, laughing inappropriately, banging his head against the table, making noises, speaking to himself and staring strangely into space.
As a physician, I am extremely concerned that his behaviors might indicate mental and possibly physical abuse during his detention, and that his mental injuries may be permanent.
In America, we used to believe that people were innocent until proven guilty, that everyone deserved due process, and that people should be found guilty in a court of law before they are punished.
We considered the use of torture unacceptable in civilized society. Has the war on terror changed our nation’s values? In light of the abuses committed at the Abu Ghraib prison, such questions are inevitable.
As an American-born Muslim who has lived in Ohio for the past 30 years, I abhor and condemn terrorism in all its forms. The safety and prosperity of my family and community are of great importance to me. If Abdi is guilty of plotting a terrorist attack, he must be brought to justice.
But the Justice Department has wrongly accused Muslims in America of terrorism before. In September 2003, Army Capt. James Yee, a Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was arrested and accused of espionage, mutiny, sedition and aiding the enemy. He spent 76 days in solitary confinement. Eventually, all charges against him were dropped and his record was cleared…