Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Mohamed Mabrook Wonders What Happened to "Liberty and Justice for All"

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Mohamed Mabrook Wonders What Happened to "Liberty and Justice for All"

Article excerpt

When Mohamed Mabrook's wife and 11 daughters want to visit him in the minimum security prison in Waseca, Minnesota, they don their hijab, pack up the cars, buckle in the babies and toddlers-all at the incredible hour of 3 a.m. The bleary-eyed women and children settle in for the nine-hour trip, ever vigilant lest the drowsy drivers in their mini-convoy fall asleep.

Arriving at the small town in south central Minnesota, they grab a hotel room for a few hours' sleep, then make their way over to the prison, where they're able to spend the afternoon with their loved one before they turn around for the trip back home.

Not only is the jaunt grueling and expensive, but the ratio of time on the road to visiting time is extremely high. When Mabrook first was incarcerated at a federal prison camp in Oxford, Wisconsin over one year ago, his family was able to spend two days every other weekend with him, and the trip took three hours. Now, they're able to see him only for a few hours every other month.

The move is an added insult to an already unjust injury. Officials from the Department of Corrections have been blunt in their reasons for Mabrook's interstate transfer: It's all because of an article by Glenn R. Simpson published last November in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), linking Mabrook to what the reporter called a widespread terrorist funding network.

Mabrook was not tried on charges of terrorism. Instead he was tried and convicted of mail fraud (see April 2002 Washington Report, pp. 63 and 64). His lawyer, Steven Shobat, was surprised by the allegations in the WSJ article. "It was a fraud case," Shobat said earlier this year. "It had nothing to do with chemicals or terrorism."

The day after Simpson's article appeared, Mabrook said in an August telephone interview, he was in the camp's library waiting to pray when he was grabbed and taken to solitary confinement.

"I was 100 percent surprised," said Mabrook, who is an American citizen.

Prison officials threw him into solitary confinement for 50 days during Ramadan, Mabrook said, and eventually moved him to Minnesota, where he spent an additional 10 days in isolation.

Prior to his arrest, Mabrook was a partner in Global Chemical, a company that sought to develop and produce oil pipeline drag reducers. It also sold swimming pool chemicals in order to finance the more expensive drag-reducer project.

Even before Sept. 11, however, an Arab involved with a chemical company was under suspicion, and the FBI had Mabrook under surveillance for several years during the 1990s. Failing to find any evidence of terrorist activity-or terror group financing-federal prosecutors finally charged him with mail fraud. According to Mabrook, a Global employee, John Paneras-who, according to attorney Shobat, also was an FBI mole-created a false invoice, which was used to attract investors. Mabrook insists he was unaware the invoice was false, and the FBI eventually realized Paneras was a con man who had perpetrated similar fraud on other unsuspecting businesses and on gullible women. The agency dumped Paneras as a mole, and he is currently serving prison time for fraud.

Prosecutors had offered Mabrook a deal: plead guilty and receive less than two years in detention. he refused, saying he wouldn't confess to a crime he did not commit. However, at Mabrook's trial all information related to Paneras was suppressed. …

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