The Justice Department is probing the killing of Detroit-area Islamic cleric Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah, who was shot dead during an FBI raid shortly after being indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit federal crimes. The FBI said Abdullah was shot after he opened fire, but critics say he may have been targeted for assassination. We speak to Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. [includes rush transcript]
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re here on Demolition Day, on D-Day in Detroit. Some see that as a rebirth; others see that as, well, asking questions of who is in charge.
Well, it’s been five months since the FBI killed a Detroit-area Islamic cleric. Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah headed a Sunni Muslim group called the Ummah and was shot dead during an FBI raid in Dearborn last October, shortly after being indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit federal crimes.
A police autopsy report, finally released in February, shows Abdullah died from twenty-one gunshot wounds and was found with his wrists handcuffed. At least one of the gunshot wounds entered through Abdullah’s back. FBI agents said they shot the Islamic cleric because he fired first at an agency dog. The Justice Department launched a probe into his killing two months ago.
For more on this case, I’m joined here in Detroit by Dawud Walid, the executive director of the Michigan chapter of CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Welcome to Democracy Now! So tell us the latest in this case.
DAWUD WALID: Well, we, as community leaders in the Muslim community, as well as the many civil rights organizations, like the NAACP, the ACLU, the National Lawyers Guild, still have many unanswered questions. We have gone over five months since the shooting of the imam. The Detroit police — excuse me, the Dearborn Police Department has said on three different occasions that they would release their report within three weeks regarding their investigation of the shooting scene. We have not received a report yet.
We are getting custody, actually, of the autopsy photos today, which have been suppressed for a long period of time. Our staff attorney actually had the opportunity about two weeks ago to look at the photos, and there were some aspects that were shown within the photos that were not fully reflected within the autopsy report.
We’re also waiting on the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division to state whether they’re going to launch a full-fledged investigation into the shooting of the imam. Not too long ago, we actually had a press conference with the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman John Conyers, in which it was announced that the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division would be reviewing the FBI’s shooting results, but — and this is still under review. But they have not announced whether they are going to actually opening up a full-fledged civil rights investigation into the shooting of the imam.
AMY GOODMAN: So explain what happened, as you understand it, in Dearborn in October.
DAWUD WALID: How we understand it is that there were — and this is according to the criminal affidavit — there were three confidential informants. One of them, at least, was an agent provocateur that led the imam and a couple of other congregants to a warehouse. According to community members, this person who was an agent provocateur was passing himself off as a businessperson and bringing them there to do jobs. The imam owned a pickup truck, so he was asked to drive these gentlemen over there to help move what ended up being some televisions at a warehouse.
Once they got to the warehouse, the agent provocateur excused himself. Then percussion grenades were then exploded within the warehouse. FBI agents came in with guns drawn. And as the individuals were laying down — and as we’ve been told, the imam was not brandishing a firearm — dogs were let loose. As the dogs came and started to rip through his jacket sleeves right here — we’ve seen the pictures where he has marks on his face — then the FBI purports that the imam then pulled out a gun and shot the FBI canine. And then they filled him up with twenty-one gunshots, including one in the back.
AMY GOODMAN: The imam.
DAWUD WALID: The imam. The FBI shot the imam. We’re not even sure if the imam even had a gun, to be honest with you. We’ve sent in Freedom of Information Act requests, which have not been answered by the FBI in regards to the necropsy report, which is basically on autopsy report of the dog, to see what caliber bullets entered into the dog, because, in fact, it could have been bullets the FBI or so-called friendly fire. So there’s a lot of unanswered questions.
AMY GOODMAN: And why is the FBI saying that they moved in anyway at this warehouse on the imam?
DAWUD WALID: Well, what they say is that they felt that this was the best location to apprehend the imam. They didn’t want to get him at his home or in the mosque.
AMY GOODMAN: Compare what happened to the imam with the raids last weekend, here in Michigan, on the right-wing militias. I don’t think gunshots were fired. I think that the raids were peaceful.
DAWUD WALID: Yes, they were. And actually, you know, the imam or the other individuals of his mosque, none of them were charged with anything terrorism-related. They weren’t charged with anything related to treason or incitement to overthrow the government. However, with this Christian militia, there were such charges in regards to treason, and also they were allegedly building explosives. Yet the FBI’s actions were very different than what took place at this raid, and we have noticed that.
Even the criminal affidavit regarding the Christian militia, there is not one reference of religion in that criminal affidavit or calling them radicals, whereas the imam, he was called a Sunni Islam leader. They made reference to him supposedly quoting the Koran in regards to the criminal activity that was going on, which actually was introduced by the agent provocateur. It wasn’t ongoing before the FBI informants got there. But we have noticed a very stark difference, even in regards to the language of the criminal affidavit.
AMY GOODMAN: And the Christian militias were not referred to as “terrorists”?
DAWUD WALID: The Christian militias were not referred to as “terrorists,” but the knee-jerk reaction here within the media is that the imam was a radical Islamic leader, he was a terrorist, when there were no charges that reflected that whatsoever. At best, there were some charges relating to fencing stolen goods that may or may not have been true.
AMY GOODMAN: So what are you calling for now?
DAWUD WALID: Well, we’re calling for a number of things. One, we’re calling for the Department of Justice to open up a full-fledged civil rights investigation into the actions of the Federal Bureau of Investigations. But moreover, we’re also calling on Attorney General Holder to review the current practice and usage of confidential informants being sent into houses of worship, because this is nothing new, Amy. We go back to the 1960s with the Counter Intelligence Program of J. Edgar Hoover, where Martin Luther King, Jr., the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a number of churches, peace groups were infiltrated, and agent provocateurs started trouble. In the 1980s, similar happened with Baptist churches who had a different view in regards to the Reagan administration about El Salvador, where churches and Bible studies were actually infiltrated. So we definitely need to get a handle and review on what we believe is this un-American practice of sending agents provocateurs into houses of worship to basically incite people to commit to criminal activity that was not currently ongoing.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Dawud Walid is the executive director of CAIR here in Michigan.