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Lone-Wolf Terrorist or Very Sad Case?

April 18, 2016

Ahmed Ferhani, a so-called “lone-wolf” terrorist serving a 10-year sentence at the maximum security Attica Correction Facility upstate, tried to hang himself two weeks ago and is now in a coma in a Buffalo hospital.

His lawyer, Lamis Jamal Deek, said Ferhani had written to correction officials and to the Justice Department in Washington, complaining of beatings and harassment by prison guards.

“He wrote to the superintendent,” his mother, Kheira, said by telephone from his hospital bedside. “He told him if they don’t stop this retaliation, ‘I am going to kill myself.’” A state prison spokesman declined comment “due to an ongoing investigation.”

It’s hard to feel sympathy for a terrorist. But was Ferhani a terrorist, or did the NYPD manipulate him into plotting a terrorist act? Under former police Commissioner Ray Kelly and his Intelligence Division head, former CIA operative David Cohen, the department sought to make terrorism cases on its own to gain equal standing with the FBI.

The FBI did not participate in Ferhani’s 2011 arrest. Two years earlier, the bureau had been criticized after paying $250,000 to a Pakistani-born confidential informant in a separate case. The informant befriended four African-American Muslim petty criminals from upstate Newburgh and promised them money if they agreed to blow up two Bronx synagogues and shoot missiles at military planes at Stewart International Airport. The FBI arrested them on terrorism charges. They pleaded entrapment but were found guilty.

When Ferhani, then 26, was arrested, law enforcement sources told NYPD Confidential that the FBI questioned the actions of an NYPD undercover officer who befriended Ferhani, a petty criminal with a history of psychiatric problems. Deek said Ferhani had repeatedly been institutionalized for harming himself since he was 16. The undercover then persuaded Ferhani to buy guns from another undercover, Deek said.

“They turned a gun case into a terrorism case,” she said.

Ferhani’s arrest was announced by Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said Ferhani had plotted to blow up the largest synagogue in Manhattan and kill as many Jews as possible.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance indicted Ferhani, the first person charged under a state terrorism law passed after 9/11. A grand jury rejected the top terrorism count, which carries a sentence of life imprisonment. In 2012, Ferhani pleaded guilty to lesser terrorism charges.

Ferhani’s decision to take a plea lies with another lone-wolf terrorism case. Shahawar Matin Siraj, a Pakistani immigrant, was arrested by the NYPD without the FBI on the eve of the 2004 Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden. He was accused of plotting to blow up the nearby Herald Square subway station.

At trial, Siraj’s attorney, Martin R. Stolar, argued an entrapment defense. Evidence revealed that Siraj had an IQ of 79, which is considered borderline-retarded; that the NYPD had paid an  informant $100,000 to befriend him and encourage the plot; that a co-conspirator, James Elshafay, had been recently released from a mental institution and that, when arrested, he agreed to testify against Siraj. Siraj was convicted and is serving a 30-year prison sentence.

Said Stolar last week: “With any Muslim accused of terrorism, you have a major hurdle to overcome, no matter what your defense.”

Said Deek: “No one has won with an entrapment defense post 9/11. At worst, Ferhani’s was a gun-possession case and the offer we got was akin to what he would have gotten had he just been charged with a gun crime.”

Siraj’s mother, Shahira Parveen, attended a demonstration in support of Ferhani outside 1 Police Plaza last week. She said their family had come to America from Karachi, Pakistan in 1999, because of threats by Muslim extremists as they belonged to a different Muslim sect. “We came here for a better life for our children,” she said.

Ferhani’s mother, Kheira, said their family had come to America from Algeria also because of threats by Muslim extremists. “I was a French teacher. Fundamentalists sent a letter, threatening to kill me. I am a Muslim but I don’t wear the hijab. Before I retired, I worked at Saks and Bergdorf as a beauty adviser. My children were all raised in America. They have an American mentality.”

Doctors have told her that even if her son recovers, he may be blind and/or paralyzed. Now she sits by his bedside, hoping for a miracle.

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