Abu Taubah (aka Marcus Robertson) was born and raised in New York. He later became a marine in the US army.
After embracing Islam, he spent several years studying traditional Islam, most notably in Mauritania.
He mastered the Arabic language, memorised the Qur’an and gained ijaazat (authorisation to teach) in several Islamic sciences.
He later founded the Foundation of Islamic Knowledge & Seminary (FIKS), teaching Islam online to students all around the world.
His style of teaching made him a very popular imam and led him to tour the English-speaking world as well as record TV programs for Islamic channels.
In August 2011, Abu Taubah was arrested by the FBI and later charged with “Constructive Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon”, an offence which only necessitates the knowledge of the presence of a firearm and the ability to access it. No motive to commit a crime is needed.
Even though Abu Taubah admitted he had been convicted for felony 20 years ago, he also explained that as a former marine and member of the special operations community, he was not in the possession of an illegal firearm in his home.
Actually, during the past 20 years, he had been in the physical and constructive possession of firearms on the behest of the government several times.
Nevertheless, he had to plead guilty and faced a sentence from zero to ten years.
He was also charged with conspiracy to submit a fraudulent tax return.
However, Abu Taubah was suddenly facing a much longer sentence when the prosecution attempted to portray him as a radicaliser sending people to train overseas.
Under US law, a judge can apply an extra length to the sentence in a criminal case, even where there was no actual allegation of terrorism by linking the defendant, often Muslim, to terrorism.
In Abu Taubah’s case, the prosecution mainly relied on conversation between him and a young man he was counselling. His encouragement to go to hajj and memorise the Qur’an in Mauritania were interpreted as facilitation to train for violent action.
The young man had stated to an undercover FBI that he wanted to travel abroad, fight and die on the battlefield.
These so-called “sting operations” are widely criticised and often described as entrapment. Having conducted over 215 interviews, Human Rights Watch concluded that “many of these people would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts.”
It added that “the FBI often targeted particularly vulnerable people, including those with intellectual and mental disabilities and the indigent”.
This is especially concerning since ““the bar on entrapment in US law is so high that it’s almost impossible for a terrorism suspect to prove”.
Conditions of detention
In November 2012, Abu Taubah was placed in solitary confinement. This included being kept in a concrete cell with no mirror and no window, under bright lights 24 hours a day while being recorded by a video camera. Likewise, he was deprived of his mail, legal papers and books including the Qur’an.
Extended period of solitary confinement have been described as torture by Juan Mendez, the UN rapporteur on torture.
In October 2014, after two years in solitary confinement, Abu Taubah gave a glimpse of his life in prison:
“For the past two years, I have been held in solitary confinement. In addition, kept in chains around my legs and waist for hours at a time. Besides my family, I have not seen another Muslim in two years. Nor have I had physical contact with human beings except the guards when they chain me up and unchain me. My visit is between a glass wall and on the phone, not physical. My cell has been a completely concrete room with no windows.
Up until a month and a half ago, the lights stayed on for 24 hours a day 7 days a week. There is no clock nor mirror. I haven’t seen myself and never know what time it is. They give me three hours of sunlight every seven days, but if it is, raining or drizzling then it is cancelled without making it up. A few days ago, my ankles could not take it anymore.
After two years, the strain from the shackles finally rubbed my skin off the ankles. The guard gave me permission to wear socks under the chains. But they got so sticky from blood that when the nurse pulled them off the infected wound stuck and pulled more skin completely off leaving large lesions”
Much of the “evidence” attempting to show Abu Taubah’s involvement were presented in secret proceedings, not allowing him to be present or even be made aware of it.
Abu Taubah is due for sentencing on 30 April 2015.
Send funds to the family of Abu Taubah for legal costs, $10,000 are still needed to cover the costs of experts:
By Mail Union: