“The True American”: The hate-crime victim who pleaded for his attacker’s life

The true story of a Muslim immigrant who tried to save the white supremacist who shot him in the face

On Sept. 21, 2001, Rais Bhuiyan, a Bangladeshi immigrant, was working in a gas station minimart in Dallas when a burly man with tattoo-covered arms walked up to the counter and pulled out a shotgun. Bhuiyan moved to hand over the money in the cash register, but the man seemed uninterested in that. “Where are you from?” he demanded to know, before shooting Bhuiyan in the face.

Although the shotgun’s pellets missed Bhuiyan’s brain by millimeters, 35 of them remain lodged in his body to this day; he is nearly blind in one eye. His would-be killer, who apparently thought he’d finished Bhuiyan off, had already killed Waqar Hasan, also a convenience-store worker, and would go on to kill another man, Vasudev Patel, 11 days later. When he was caught shortly afterward, Mark Stroman, who mistakenly believed that his victims were Arabs, would claim to be an “allied combatant” in the newly declared war on terror, a self-proclaimed “American terrorist,” striking back at those who, he wrote, “sought to bring the exact same chaos and bewilderment upon our people and society as they lived in themselves at home and abroad.”

Stroman turned out to be an ex-con and rumored member of the Aryan Brotherhood with a long history of trouble with the law. Despite his belief that hate-crimes legislation levied extra punishment on people like him, prosecutors had to try him for killing Vasudev Patel while committing the crime of robbery because only then was he eligible for the death penalty. Nevertheless, as the prosecutor acknowledged to Indian-American journalist Anand Giridharadas, whose moving and indelible “The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas” tells the extraordinary story of Stroman’s crime and its aftermath, it was the hatred behind Stroman’s actions that made the state’s attorneys determined to send him to death row. They succeeded.

It’s a manifestly inspirational story, the kind easily told in a newspaper article to which readers can and have attached comments marveling over the human capacity for goodness and the irony of a Muslim behaving with greater Christian charity than the jingoistic Bible thumpers all around him. Bhuiyan became a potent public speaker. When he finally got the chance to make his plea for Stroman’s life at a hearing on the day the execution was scheduled to take place, his words left listeners — including that most stoic of all legal professionals, the court reporter — in tears.

Military jury sentences Army psychiatrist to death for 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood

FORT HOOD, Texas — A military jury on Wednesday sentenced Maj. Nidal Hasan to death for the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, handing the Army psychiatrist the ultimate punishment after a trial in which he seemed to be courting martyrdom by making almost no effort to defend himself.

 

The 13-member panel spent less than two hours deliberating privately, and the president — or forewoman– announced the finding in open court with a clear voice, that Hasan “be put to death.”

The rare military death sentence came nearly four years after the attack that stunned even an Army hardened by more than a decade of constant war. Hasan walked into a medical building where soldiers were getting medical checkups, shouted “Allahu akbar” — Arabic for “God is great!” — and opened fire with a laser-sighted handgun. Thirteen people were killed and 32 others were wounded.

 

The convicted killer said nothing as the decision was announced, and had appeared emotionless earlier in the morning when dramatic closing arguments in the sentencing phase were held without his participation.

 

The judge quickly accepted the verdict; the matter now goes to the “convening authority” — an Army general who will review the four-week court-martial proceedings and make the binding decision whether to accept the guilty verdict and capital sentence.

 

It is a process that could take a few more months, and only then will the verdicts become official.

The convening authority has the option of reducing the sentence to life in prison without parole. The defendant will then have the right to appeal through the military justice system.

 

Appeals could take years

 

If swift justice is the goal, history may not be on Hasan’s or the government’s side. The last military execution was in 1961, and only five servicemen face lethal injection. Three are African-American, two are white.

 

If Nidal Hasan plans to welcome a death sentence as a pathway to martyrdom, the rules of military justice won’t let him go down without a fight — whether he likes it or not.  But before an execution date is set, Hasan faces years, if not decades, of appeals. And this time, he won’t be allowed to represent himself.

The mandatory appellate process could take years, even if Hasan voluntarily foregoes many of the procedural steps available to any defense.

 

John Galligan, a retired Army colonel who was Hasan’s former lead civilian counsel, said he doesn’t believe Hasan is seeking execution, as his appointed standby lawyers at trial have suggested. He has met with Hasan frequently during the trial and said several civilian attorneys — including anti-death penalty activists — have offered to take on his appeal. Galligan estimates the military has already spent more than $6 million on Hasan’s trial. He said that will triple during appeals, which he believes will take longer than Hasan’s remaining life expectancy.

 

Canadian’s death sentence in Iran appears to have been lifted

News Agencies – December 2, 2012

 

Reports that Iran has suspended the death sentence of Canadian Saeed Malekpour have not been officially confirmed, and his family remain concerned for his fate, an activist close to the family says. The lawyer for Mr. Malekpour, on death row since 2010, has told Iran’s Mehr new agency that the sentence has been commuted after he “repented,” Agence France-Presse reported.

 

But in Canada, those campaigning for his release remain skeptical, noting that Iranian officials have in the past reinstituted death sentences they had supposedly commuted. Mr. Malekpour, a permanent resident of Canada, was arrested in December of 2008 in Iran when he returned to his native land to visit his dying father and accused of operating up an offensive website.

 

Mr. Malekpour developed a program for posting pictures on the Internet and that it was used without his knowledge for the creation of porn sites, human rights group and his family said. In late January, Iran’s supreme court confirmed the death sentence against Mr. Malekpour, Iranian media reported. The verdict provoked an international outcry.In February, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called on Iran to halt the execution while Canada and rights watchdog Amnesty International also called for Mr. Malekpour’s immediate release.

Iran reissues death sentence for Canada resident

News Agencies – January 19, 2011

Iran’s Supreme Court has reinstated a death sentence against an Iranian resident of Canada who had been accused of running a pornographic website, a lawyer working on the case. The death sentence meted out to Saeed Malekpour was reinstated by the court, after it had reportedly been annulled in June. Malekpour, a 36-year-old computer programmer, was sentenced to death in December 2010 after being found guilty of “designing and moderating adult content websites,” “agitation against the regime,” and “insulting the sanctity of Islam,” according to his supporters.

The Canadian government protested the verdict, which the Supreme Court then reportedly annulled in June 2011. Malekpour’s supporters say he developed a program that allows photographs to be posted to the Internet, which was used without his knowledge for the creation of porn sites. A resident of Canada since 2004, Malekpour was arrested in Iran in 2008 while visiting his dying father.

Five Muslim Men on Trial for Distributing Homophobic Leaflets

10./ 11.01.2012

Last week, five Muslim men have gone on trial accused of having distributed leaflets calling for gay people to be executed. The Derby Crown Court heard that the group of five had allegedly handed out leaflets demanding the death penalty for homosexuality after Friday prayers at a Derby mosque and put them through people’s letterboxes in the local neighbourhood in July 2010, in the run up to the Gay Pride event. By handing out anti-gay death sentence flyers, the five men are accused of stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation, which is a breach of the new hate laws that came into force in March 2010. This prosecution is the first of its kind since the legislation came into force. The trial continues. All five men deny the charges; if they are convicted, however, they face a maximum sentence of seven years in jail and/ or an unlimited fine.

Woman tried in Tarragona “shari’a court”

Seven men have been sent to prison without jail in Tarragona, and two others released with charges, for planning to kill a woman for “adultery” after kidnapping her from her home in Tarragona and holding her in a farmhouse, from which she escaped to a local police station.

The men allegedly created an Islamic Tribunal and illegally tried the woman for adultery using “an extremist version of Islamic law”, sentencing her to death. They were arrested in November.

Life sentence for Dresden courtroom murderer

Alex W., the man who stabbed pregnant Egyptian pharmacist Marwa al-Sherbini to death in a courtroom in Dresden in July, was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday. The judge imposed the harshest possible sentence under the German system by ruling that W. will not be eligible for parole after 15 years.

International attention to the case was high. Responses to the verdict have generally been positive, except for those who demanded a death sentence or extradition to Egypt for a death penalty, both of which possibilities have been abolished in the EU. The Egyptian ambassador to Germany was pleased with the sentence, as it was the highest possible.

German Muslims warned against growing Islamophobia in Germany, but welcomed the sentence, which is also a sign that Islamophobic currents are not institutionalized in Germany. Many newspapers discuss the fact that society must remain vigilant and it must always ensure an environment in which wearing the veil – an initial spark of the tragedy – does not become life-threatening.