Authorities have opened an inquiry into claims that federal guards abused and threatened a prominent Palestinian Arab inmate, Sami Al-Arian, as he was being transferred last week to a jail in Northern Virginia from a prison hospital in North Carolina.

“It has been referred for an investigation,” a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons, Traci Billingsley, said yesterday.

Sami Al-Arian, 49, complained to family members that he was kept in freezing temperatures, cursed at, and subjected to religious insults by a guard during a strip search at a facility in Petersburg, Va., Al-Arian’s daughter, Laila, said in an interview. A supervisor who overheard the taunts later tightened shackles on her father’s legs so tight that they were numb during a four-hour drive to Alexandria, Va., from Petersburg, she said.

“This corrections officer saw my dad and asked the question, ‘Where are you from, Afghanistan?'” Ms. Al-Arian said, recounting the story her father told her by phone last week. She said her father, who was born in Kuwait but considers himself to be Palestinian, declined to answer.

Ms. Al-Arian said the guard began cursing and shouted, “It doesn’t matter where you’re from. If I had my way, you wouldn’t be in prison. I’d put a bullet in your head and get it done with it. You’re nothing but a piece of s-.”

The prisoner’s daughter said that her father replied, “Why do you say that? You don’t know me.” She said this set the guard off on another rant, in which he declared, “I know enough about all you guys. You’re all pieces of s-. You can go pray to the f- that you pray to.”

Ms. Al-Arian said the lieutenant who painfully shackled her father also shoved him against a wall when he arrived in Alexandria on Thursday. She said a lawyer had filed a formal complaint.


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