Ahmed Ferhani, an Algerian-American man and Queens resident who in 2012 pleaded guilty to terrorism charges following an extensive NYPD sting, is now in a coma after attempting to take his own life. Attica Correctional Facility officials notified Ferhani's family about his attempted hanging Thursday morning.
In an extensive report by The Nation, Ferhani's life in prison leading up to his suicide attempt is described as a living hell, plagued by bigotry at the hands of Attica's staff and guards. "I have been denied food, water, telephone, recreation and law library services," Ferhani wrote in a letter to The Nation. "My personal and religious property has been destroyed and my mail thrown in the garbage. My life has been threatened countless times and I have been the victim of sexual harassment."
Ferhani also described being denied vocational and educational programs while at Attica, reportedly being told, "You will make a bomb." A supervisor at Attica reportedly suspended his Islamic education, telling an Imam, "Do you know what he is here for?!"
The police investigation that lead to Ferhani's arrest has been described as "predatory" by his legal team. Last year, attorney Gideon Orion Oliver described a larger trend of undercover NYPD officers working to investigate and indict Muslims in New York—a trend that enveloped Ferhani's arrest. "The government and the undercover officers have significant roles in manufacturing what they then characterize as the defendants' plots," Oliver told Gothamist. Ferhani pleaded guilty to charges of terrorism and hate crime in what was characterized as an elaborate plan to dress as a Jew and bomb a synagogue in Manhattan. The Nation's new report points to holes in the investigation. "Days before his arrest, for instance, [Ferhani] told the undercover officer that instead of carrying out the plot, he wanted to just flip the guns they were going to buy for a profit," the magazine reports, going on to note that NYPD officers had to deliberately remind Ferhani to purchase explosives.
"The case against him was flimsy enough that the FBI removed themselves from the investigation in its early stages," The Nation writes. "The NYPD continued to pursue Ferhani, despite their knowledge of his history of mental illness and self-harm."
In his letters, Ferhani described being caught in a hopeless situation; he alleged that complaints of abuse to Attica staff only resulted in new agitations and attacks. In a March 30th note, he wrote "there is only one thing to do," while an earlier letter describes suicide as his only perceived means of justice: "If taking my own life is the only way to expose the evils that are practiced daily by corrections officers then I will be glad to do it."
Ferhani was rushed to an outside medical facility and induced into a coma following Thursday's suicide attempt. His attorney, Lamis Deek, cast blame solely on on what she sees as a bogus NYPD counter-terrorism sting. "If Ahmed dies, his blood is on their hands," she told The Nation. "It's an absolute outrage that this is the kind of person they're trying to turn into a terrorist to justify their funding for their department."