Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Feds Continue Abuse of El-Hage

In a telephone interview with The New York Times, April ElHage said federal jail officials in Manhattan have been retaliating against her husband, Wadih ElHage, ever since two codefendants in the case were accused of stabbing and critically wounding a guard.

The two codefendants, Khalfan Khamis Mohamed and Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, shared a cell in one of the most secure areas of the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC). On November 1, 2000, they were allegedly able to stab and subdue a guard, Louis Pepe, take his keys, and then attack a group of other officers as they arrived to assist Pepe. It's alleged that the two prisoners were attempting to escape using a sharpened comb as their weapon.

Mr. ElHage, Mr. Mohamed, and Mr. Salim, along with two other defendants, were being held in the federal lockup awaiting trial on charges that they participated in a worldwide terrorism conspiracy, led by Osama Bin Laden, which was responsible for the August 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. All five defendants have pleaded not guilty. Mr. ElHage has not been accused of a direct role in the bombings.

The two defendants accused in the stabbing were transferred to other prisons. Lawyers for the remaining three confirmed that guards had been brutally retaliating against their clients. Mr. ElHage has not been accused of any role in the stabbing.

Mrs. ElHage said by phone that due to actions taken against her husband by authorities, his mental state has sharply deteriorated. Mr. ElHage no longer recognizes his lawyer, his wife said, nor does he remember that he has a family.

Since the stabbing incident, Mr. ElHage and two of his codefendants have been held in solitary confinement at MCC. The government has barred the defendants from communicating with all outsiders except their lawyers and immediate family members. The restrictions were imposed under a rarely used (until recently) federal rule that allows officials to limit a prisoner's communications with outsiders to prevent "acts of violence and terrorism."

One defense lawyer, in challenging the action, called the restrictions the "21stcentury equivalent" of being "chained, shackled and thrown into a dungeon." But Robert Brooks, a spokesman for the MCC, said, "We stand by the decisions made by the court and the attorney general."

Mrs. ElHage and a second family member said they were told by Mr. El-Hage's lawyer that since the stabbing, Mr. ElHage has lost all of his privileges in the jail, that his cell was emptied of his possessions, including pictures, books and papers, and that he was prevented from making scheduled phone calls to his family.

Mrs. ElHage's complaints came a week after defense lawyers in the case complained to U.S. District Judge Sand about their lack of access to their clients since the stabbing. That same week, Mr. E1Hagel's lawyers won a court order for a psychological examination of their client. Mrs. ElHage said that since the stabbing of the guard, officials at MCC have treated Mr. E1Hage so harshly that he has had a near breakdown. "They have made him mentally disabled," she said.

"I am speaking out because people on death row have more rights than my husband," Said Mrs. E1Hage, who lives in Arlington, Texas with the couple's seven children. She said the government had "already convicted my husband in the press, and they are punishing him in prison."

"Then," she said, "they will put him on trial."

Source: The New York Times

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login