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They're behind bars for being Arabs

By Petrino DiLeo | November 2, 2001 | Page 2

OF THE more than 900 people arrested in connection with the investigation into September 11, not one has been criminally charged in the attacks. But now one has died--behind bars in a New Jersey jail cell.

Authorities say Muhammad Rafiq Butt died of natural causes. But there was nothing natural about the cruel nightmare he faced in the final month of his life.

Reports are beginning to emerge of the miserable conditions that Butt and other detainees have faced. In New York City, hundreds of people are being held without contact with their families or lawyers at the city's Metropolitan Correctional Center, according to lawyers for the Center for Constitutional Rights. Many are held in solitary confinement in 8-foot-by-10-foot cells equipped with nothing other than cots and blankets.

According to Amnesty International, some detainees have reported being denied exercise, given food that they can't eat on religious grounds, kept in cold cells with only one blanket, subjected to full strip searches twice a day and shackled hand and foot when they're taken from their cells.

Yet federal officials are actually talking about using even more draconian measures, including torture. As James Zogby, who heads the Arab American Institute, told Reuters, "What's happening is a bit of vigilantism."

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