Mentally ill Canadian convicted in terror probe lands in U.S. supermaximum security prison

Demands intensify for Abdulraham al-Bahnasawi’s transfer to Canadian prison

A Canadian family and US experts say a mentally ill man from Mississauga, Ont., who was indicted for his role in an online terror plot while a teen is not being held at a supermaximum security prison in Colorado needed.

Instead, they say he should be deported back to Canada, where he could serve the remaining 40 years of his sentence and require psychiatric help.

Abdulrahman El Bahnasawi was a 17-year-old living in his parents’ home in Mississauga, west of Toronto, in 2015 when he met an undercover FBI agent online who he thought was an ISIS member. El Bahnasavi agreed to help plot attacks in New York City, including the bombing of Times Square and the city’s subway system.

At the time, the teen was diagnosed with a severe bipolar disorder and addiction problems. He had gone off his two mood-stabilizing and anti-psychotic drugs and was on a waiting list for further psychiatric care.

No attack was carried out. Al Bahnasawi pleaded guilty to terror charges related to conspiracy and was sentenced in 2019 to 40 years in prison in a US federal court in Manhattan. At the time, security officials in both the US and Canada were aware of his long-standing mental health problems.

El Behnsawi, now 23, has spent the past five years in US custody, where his family says he cannot get the drugs and mental support he gets in a Canadian prison.

“He attempted suicide five times in prison because of depression. That’s why his transfer is so important, because he’s not a US citizen, he doesn’t deserve to go into one. [U.S.] Prison with a mental health facility,” his father, Osama Al Bahnasawi, told Granthshala News.

“Right now the situation is very risky and he could lose his life at any moment.”

Right now, the future of El Bahnasavi is in the balance. He can be transferred under the International Transfer of Offenders Act.

However, both the Canadian and US governments would have to agree to the move. Right now, the Canadian government has only moved to request paperwork regarding El Bahnasawi’s case — the first step in the process, according to the family.

A spokesman for Public Safety Canada said they could not comment on individual prison transfer requests due to privacy regulations.

‘She’s completely isolated’

Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) Florence, located about 180 kilometers south of Denver, is designed to handle the United States’ most dangerous prisoners deemed a danger to themselves or others. It has 351 prisoners.

The prisoners are isolated for 23 hours in their own 2.5 meter by 3.5 meter cell. Those cells, which are made of concrete, have soundproof walls and a concrete door. Prisoners cannot see outside.

Mexican drug lord Joaquín (El Chapo) Guzmán began serving a life sentence there in 2019. No one has ever escaped from jail.

El Bahnasavi has been transferred to several prisons over the past five years and arrived at the ADX facility in April.

His mother said that he is still clinging to leg irons, belly chains and handcuffs for a long time even during meals.

“He put his food on the floor and had to kneel like a dog to eat it,” Khadiga Metwali told Granthshala.

“It’s the worst prison in the world. He can’t talk to anybody, can’t see anybody. He’s completely isolated.”

The family said that the prison has told them that they can no longer meet or talk to their son directly. They are allowed to correspond only by mail.

The family wants him to be transferred to a Canadian prison for drug and psychiatric counseling.

“There’s a mental health unit attached to the prisons here, so they’re going to get a lot of help, medical treatment and everything in Canada,” Osama El Bahnasawi said.

‘We didn’t use the right tools’

Not only is the family calling for El Behnsawi to be transferred to a Canadian prison.

Dr. Stephen Xenakis, a former US Army general and psychiatrist, said the arrest and prosecution of El Behnsawi had not made his country safer.

“My biggest concern is that we haven’t really done our job when it comes to identifying someone who is really dangerous and we haven’t used the right tools and the right mechanisms to defend our countries. “

Xenakis said security officials should do more to identify those who may be a real threat and those who are not.

“There are dangerous people out there. There is no doubt about it. And there are many strategies that must be used to protect ourselves from these dangerous people.”

Xenakis said the mentally ill could become the low-hanging fruit, or it could be easier for security agencies trying to keep Americans and Canadians safe, essentially manipulated.

“I believe that we should do everything we can to actively engage in identifying and treating those people. And I think that was the mistake in this case, that this young man had a He had severe mental illness. He was ill for many years.”

No ‘9/11 mastermind’

Former US federal prosecutor Andrew Frisch has been hired by El Bahnsowice to review his son’s condition.

Frisk, who now practices law privately in Manhattan, said 17-year-old El Bahnasawi might not have been able to know what he was doing when he began chatting online with undercover FBI agents and others. Were.

“He’s not Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11. He’s not Ted Bundy. He’s not Ted Kazinsky, the Unabomber. He’s a troubled teen who was literally in the bedroom of his parents’ suburban home, with the patient had a documented history of psychiatric care,” Frisch told Granthshala.

Frisk said he understands why some may think El Bahnasawi got what he deserved, but locking down mentally ill people and denying them medication or treatment is not a long-term solution.

“It’s not good for any of us. We’re not making the world safer, or making any of us safer by treating people with us. In fact, we’re doing the opposite. “

The US Bureau of Prisons would not comment on how long it might take to approve or deny a request.

The New York judge who sentenced Al Bahnasawi recommended that he be transferred to Canada to serve his sentence.

It still hasn’t happened but his parents want to make sure it happens.

“We will never stop fighting for Abdulrahman. We will never stop fighting for the weak, voiceless mentally ill people who need our help,” Metwali said.

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