The treatment of prisoners has been a hot topic of debate ever since prisons were conceived. Just what constitutes extreme or unusual punishment? Would that vary according to the crime committed? The debate rages inside prisons, too, where a convicted terrorist is now suing the federal government for violating his religious rights.
Ahmad Ajaj, one of the terrorists convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, “wants a judge to determine that federal prison officials violated his religious rights by failing to provide meals strictly conforming to his beliefs and access to an imam of the same denomination,” The Daily Mail writes.
Judge R. Brooke Jackson heard the civil case in a court in Denver. There was not an immediate ruling.
The case, which wrapped up this week, has been ongoing since 2015. Amaj has been convicted of his role in the bombing and will spend life in prison, but he’s still pressing his civil suit. He’s being represented by University of Denver law students.
Ajaj’s conviction stems from his role in the Fe. 26, 1993 bombing of the parking garage of the World Trade Centers. The blast killed six people. More than 1,000 were injured as more than 50,000 people were evacuated.
“The lawsuit accused federal prison officials, particularly staff at the Administrative Maximum, or ADX, facility in Florence, of failing to provide food meeting Ajaj’s belief that all animals used for food must be fed, raised and slaughtered according to Islamic law,” DM notes.
Ajaj also had long periods in which he didn’t have access to an imam. Even when he has had access, the imam was not of the same denomination as Ajaj.
Some of these complaints are more complicated. “Ajaj’s attorneys argued that even listening to someone speak about views contrary to his own violate the inmate’s religious rights,” DM writes.
Ajaj is now in a facility in Indiana. There, he has more access to what he’s been requesting.
Jeffrey Cheeks, an administrator, has told reporters that he made a good-faith effort to find vendors capable of supplying the food Ajaj has requested.
“Cheeks said he ordered three months’ worth of meals for Ajaj from an existing government supplier at the direction of the prison’s warden last week,” DM writes.
The ruling in the case is expected imminently. That ruling may set precedent for others already in the system.