By Maral Ali
The Terre Haute CMU contains a mostly Muslim prison population. One such case is Seyed Mahmood Mousavi, a Muslim community leader in Southern California who founded Masjid Al-Nabi in West Covina. He is the father of four children (the youngest is a sophomore at UCLA) and an active member of the local community. Because of his activism, he had been under the radar of the FBI for some time.
On June 29, 2006, at six in the morning, FBI agents, accompanied by the SWAT team, raided the Mousavi home. The family was led out of the house and forced to line up facing their garage door while guns were trained on them. Mr. Mousavi and his youngest child Ali, who was 16 years old at the time, were handcuffed while agents searched their home, removing all documents and computers. Simultaneously, Masjid Al-Nabi was also raided, its doors broken open, and all of its files removed. In August of the following year (2007), Mr. Mousavi was arrested on the front steps of the Masjid (mosque).
Although not accused of terrorism charges, the government nonetheless attempted to paint Mr. Mousavi as a terrorist and a threat to American national security. The DA claimed to have “secret evidence” that would prove his terrorist affiliation. Mr. Mousavi was denied bail because he was considered ‘a threat to society.’ The government was unable to prove any terrorist affiliation, thus shifting their attention to issues such as tax returns and his citizenship application. On April 24, 2008, Mahmood Mousavi was found guilty after a trial where, according to freeseyedmousavi.com, “witnesses and documents that he wished to call were turned away” and important documents were mistranslated.
On October 14, 2008, the federal court sentenced Mr. Mousavi to 33 months, over a year of which he had already served. The government had recommended a 9 year prison term. The atmosphere in the court room was one of relief, as he was expected to be released in December 2009. Judge Percy Anderson had also requested that he be housed in a low security prison camp with the general population here in Southern California.
This all changed when suddenly on December 12, 2008, Mr. Mousavi was sent to an out of state prison despite Judge Anderson’s recommendation. In a letter to his family, Mr. Mousavi stated that he was moved from California to an Oklahoma transfer prison with 200 other inmates but once there, he and the other Muslim inmates were pulled aside and placed in solitary confinement. After repeatedly requesting an explanation, he was told that his case was terrorism related. He expressed shock at this, telling prison officers that he was charged with no such thing.
He remained in solitary confinement until his transfer to the Terre Haute, Indiana CMU on January 8, 2009. He is expected to be released this coming December, yet in light of his sudden transfer to the CMU, the fear remains that his ordeal will continue even when his sentence ends.
For more information, please visit www.freeseyedmousavi.com.