'Underwear Bomber' sues over alleged mistreatment, force-feedings at Colorado ADX supermax prison

DENVER – The Nigerian man known as the “Underwear Bomber” sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons and Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wednesday in federal court in Denver, alleging his constitutional rights are being violated at the ADX supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court of Colorado, alleges that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has been forced into solitary confinement for an undetermined amount of time, that he’s been chastised by other prisoners and guards for being Muslim, and that he’s been force-fed non-halal food when he went on hunger strikes to protest his alleged mistreatment.

Abdulmutallab is serving four life sentences, plus 50 years without parole, after he was convicted of attempted use of weapons of mass destruction charges. He was sentenced in February 2012 and transferred to ADX the next month.

Abdulmutallab had tried to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear while aboard a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas 2009.

He was alleged to have connections to al-Qaeda and Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, the Colorado State graduate who had called for the killing of Americans before he was likely killed in a drone strike in late 2011.

The lawsuit alleges that once Abdulmutallab got to ADX in Colorado, he was immediately placed in long-term solitary confinement and placed under special administrative measures (SAMs) that prohibited his communication with most of his family members up until last year, when he was allowed to talk to his sister.

The lawsuit says he’s still not allowed to talk to any of his nieces or nephews.

It says of 154,000 people incarcerated by the Bureau of Prisons, Abdulmutallab is among less than 30 who have special administrative measures, and alleges that he shouldn’t be placed under the restrictions because his communications don’t risk “death or serious bodily injury to persons” or property, which is a requirement of the SAMs.

“Prison walls do not form a barrier separating prison inmates from the protections of the United States Constitution,” the suit says.

It says the restrictions constitute “an unconstitutional deprivation” of his First Amendment rights to free speech and association.

Furthermore, the suit alleges that Abdulmutallab has not been allowed to practice his religion, thus also violating his rights. It says he hasn’t been able to participate in group prayer, that there is no imam on staff at ADX, and that he hasn’t been provided with halal meals in accordance with Islam.

The suit also alleges that white supremacist prisoners and guards have yelled and screamed at Abdulmutallab about his religion, that some corrections officers showed him pornographic magazines during his prayer time, and that other officers have defiled his Qu’ran and prayer rug.

As a result, the suit says, Abdulmutallab has repeatedly undertaken hunger strikes to protest his alleged mistreatment.

But in response, according to the suit, corrections officers “repeatedly responded to and retaliated against” Abdulmutallab by force-feeding him and putting him into the most-solitary part of the prison, called Range 13.

Range 13, according to the suit, is comprised of four cells that are only used by two inmates at a time, who are allowed no contact with another or with any other inmates. The suit says an ADX psychologist testified earlier this summer that Range 13 constituted “a form of torture on some level.”

And the force-feedings, according to the suit, have been “excessively and unnecessarily painful, abusive, dangerous, and degrading.”

The lawsuit alleges that during one of the forced feedings, officers put the feeding tube down Abdulmutallab’s windpipe rather than his esophagus. The suit says the misplaced tubed “caus[ed] the nutritional supplement liquid to enter his lungs and result[ed] in Mr. Abdulmutallab feeling like he was being drowned in a manner akin to waterboarding.”

The officers also only force-fed him non-halal food, the suit says.

It says that the alleged deprivation of liberty constitutes a violation of the Fifth Amendment’s due process guidelines. And the alleged indiscretions against him “are contrary to the evolving standards of decency that are the hallmark of a maturing society,” according to the lawsuit, and violate protections against cruel and unusual punishment engrained in the Constitution.

Abdulmutallab’s lawyers ask a judge to find that his rights have been violated and are seeking injunctions to prohibit the Bureau of Prisons from force-feeding him and to get Sessions to remove the SAMs in place.

His lawyers are also asking a judge to grant an injunction to keep Abdulmutallab from being kept in solitary confinement, and another to allow him to participate in group prayers with an imam.

“Prisoners retain fundamental constitutional rights to communicate with others and have family relationships free from undue interference by the government,” said his Boulder-based attorney, Gail Johnson. “The restrictions imposed on our client are excessive and unnecessary, and therefore we seek the intervention of the federal court.”

Abdulmutallab is among a host of high-profile terrorists and other criminals housed at the facility.

Others include Ramzi Yousef, convicted of plotting the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Zacarias Moussaoui, who helped plan 9/11, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Oklahoma City bombing plotter Terry Nichols, Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and Robert Hanssen, who was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and Russia and betraying U.S. intelligence agents.

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