Farouk Abdel-Muhti, a long-term fighter for Palestinian rights and the rights of the workers of all countries, died suddenly on July 21. He had recently been released from almost two years of immigration detention in the United States for the crime of being a stateless Palestinian who refused to remain silent against injustice.
Farouk was born in 1947 in Ramallah, a Palestinian city in the West Bank of the Jordan river. Like many Palestinians, Farouk travelled from country to country until finally settling in New York in the 1970s. He made it his home and lived there ever since.
In the mid-1970s, an immigration judge ordered him deported since he had no valid visa. However, there was no way to carry out the deportation, since the West Bank was now controlled by Israel, which did not allow the return of people who left the Palestinian territories before the Israeli occupation of 1967.
Farouk continued to live openly in the New York area, engaging in a number of public political activities, with a focus on Palestinian rights and issues relating to immigration and Latin America. In March 2002, Farouk began working regularly at listener-sponsored radio station WBAI. He used his contacts to arrange interviews with Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
Early in the morning of April 26, 2002, several New York police officers, immigration and intelligence agents came to his Queens, New York apartment. They claimed they wanted to ask Farouk some questions about September 11th. They said they believed there were weapons and explosives in the apartment. When Farouk’s roommate refused to open the door, they threatened to break it down, entering without a warrant.
Farouk was detained and jailed in various facilities around the country for almost two years, including about nine months in solitary confinement. He was never charged with a crime. He was subjected to extensive interrogation and, like all immigrant detainees, suffered from non-nutritious food and poor medical care. His health deteriorated from the poor conditions in detention, and he suffered from high blood pressure and a thyroid problem. Within jail, he continued to organise, getting prisoners from all countries to sign petitions protesting their detentions and studying revolutionary literature with other prisoners. After almost two years, during which an active support committee struggled for his release, a federal judge ordered that Farouk either be deported, charged with a crime, or released. He walked out of prison on April 12, 2004.
On the evening of Wednesday, July 21, 2004, as he finished speaking at a panel discussion on ‘Detentions and Torture: Building Resistance’ at the Philadelphia Ethical Society, Farouk lost consciousness. He died shortly thereafter of either a stroke or heart attack. At this time it is not known as to whether his death was just a result of natural causes, was due to the poor medical care he received in detention, or worse.
Ideologically, Farouk was sympathetic to Marxism-Leninism. Within the Palestinian movement, he was a supporter of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He wrote an analysis of the situation in his homeland, titled ‘On the Third Anniversary of the Glorious Intifada’, in the April 2003 issue of Revolutionary Democracy. He was a strong supporter of the struggle of the Soviet people to re-establish socialism, and not only wrote letters to Northstar Compass but encouraged other detainees to write to NSC. Since his release, he worked for unity against the aggressive wars being launched by U.S. imperialism abroad, and against the attacks on democratic rights and economic conditions of the working people of the United States. His death is a sore loss to all progressive peoples.
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