July 24, 2014

Tenth Circuit: Restrictions on Imprisonment Upheld, Including Prohibitions on Arabic-Language Newspapers

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in Al-Owhali v. Holder, Jr. on Tuesday, August 7, 2012.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. Petitioner was “convicted of several terrorism-related offenses stemming from the 1998 bombing of the United States embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. He is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole at the United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum, in Florence, Colorado.” Since his arrest, Petitioner has been subject to Special Administrative Measures (“SAMs”), which impose special restrictions on his imprisonment. He brought a suit challenging several of the SAMs imposed upon him. The district court dismissed the suit, finding that Petitioner failed to allege plausible facts to support his claims. On appeal, he challenges “the prohibitions on communication with his nieces and nephews, two Arabic-language newspapers, and President Carter’s book.”

The Court found that dismissal was proper. Petitioner failed to “plead some plausible facts supporting his claim that the ban on communicating with his nieces and nephews did not serve the purpose of preventing future terrorist activity.” Also, he did not address “the government’s logical safety rationale for limiting his access to Arabic-language media—namely, the need to prevent [Petitioner] from acting upon contemporary information or receiving coded messages.” Lastly, “by stating his belief that [President Carter's] book was banned while also admitting that he was not informed of the ban, [Petitioner] has merely highlighted the theoretical basis of his claim. . . . [Petitioner claims] without substantiation that he believes there is a secret policy in place that prevents him from obtaining the book. Such a claim, without more, is simply too speculative.”

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