Judge orders Washington prison to provide Ramadan meals

Monroe Correctional Complex in Monroe, Washington, USA, in January 2016. (AP)
Updated 12 June 2018

Judge orders Washington prison to provide Ramadan meals

SEATTLE: A federal judge has ordered the Washington Department of Corrections to provide nighttime meals to all Muslim inmates who have been fasting during the month of Ramadan, after several said prison officials refused to do so.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations sued the department Sunday on behalf of four prisoners at the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe, saying the men had lost an average of more than 20 pounds ( about 9 kilograms) since Ramadan began in mid-May.
US District Judge Ronald Leighton in Tacoma issued his order just hours after the lawsuit was filed, echoing a similar ruling from a federal judge in Alaska last month.
“Muslim inmates have been starved and their health is in danger as a result of the Monroe Correctional Complex’s shameful starvation policy,” Lena Masri, CAIR’s national litigation director, said in a news release. “We welcome the federal court’s swift intervention, which will bring this health crisis to an end and ensure that Muslim inmates are not starved and brutalized for practicing the fundamental principles of their faith.”
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims observe it by fasting — neither eating nor drinking — between dawn and sunset.
The lawsuit said the prison’s policy was generally to require inmates to sign up for Ramadan meals by the end of January, with those who failed to do so allowed to receive the meals at the discretion of prison chaplains. Some said they tried to get the food, only to find out after Ramadan began that they weren’t on the list to receive nighttime meals.
Jeremy Livingston, who is serving 22 months for hit-and-run and vehicular assault, said he entered the prison in March, after the deadline, and was denied Ramadan meals despite requesting them upon arrival.
“The Washington Department of Corrections takes very seriously the health and welfare of those sentenced to incarceration in the state’s correctional facilities and was immediately responsive to the court order,” Corrections spokesman Jeremy Barclay said in an email Monday.
One of the plaintiffs, Naim Lao, who is serving three years for vehicular homicide, said he was added to the list and began receiving Ramadan meals after eight days — but not before he lost 14 pounds (6.4 kilograms), became ill and had guards threaten to force-feed him.
Some of the inmates said they had been able to hide breakfast trays in their cell, but that the trays had occasionally been discovered and confiscated. They also said some prisoners who were on the Ramadan list had tried to share their own nighttime meals with them, but that food too had sometimes been seized.
Leighton said the prisoners had shown that the department was likely violating their constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, as well as federal law concerning inmates’ rights to free exercise of religion.
Last month, the Council on American-Islamic Relations sued Alaska prison officials on behalf of two Muslim inmates, arguing that bagged meals the men received each evening were inadequate or inappropriately contained pork, which Muslims do not eat. The meals ranged from about 500 to 1,100 calories, when health guidelines suggest 2,600 to 2,800 calories per day.
US District Judge H. Russel Holland said in a written order that fasting Muslim inmates must be given daily meals containing at least 2,600 calories.
Ramadan ends Friday.


At least two killed as car ploughs into pedestrian zone in German town

Updated 01 December 2020

At least two killed as car ploughs into pedestrian zone in German town

  • The driver was arrested and the vehicle was impounded, Trier police tweeted
  • Two people have died, and 15 others had suffered serious injuries

BERLIN: At least two people including a child were killed and up to 15 injured on Tuesday when a speeding car ploughed into a pedestrian area in the western German city of Trier, authorities said.
Witnesses said people screamed in panic and some were thrown into the air by the car as it crashed through the shopping zone.
Police said several people had been killed, having earlier put the death toll at two, with more than 10 injured. The local newspaper, the Trierischer Volksfreund, put the death toll at four, including a child, but police did not confirm that figure.
"We have arrested one person, one vehicle has been secured," police said, adding that a 51-year-old German suspect from the Trier area was being questioned, police said.
Mayor Wolfram Leibe had rushed to the scene.
"We have a driver who ran amok in the city. We have two dead that we are certain of and up to 15 injured, some of them with the most severe injuries," he told public broadcaster SWR.
"I just walked through the city centre and it was just horrible. There is a trainer lying on the ground, and the girl it belongs to is dead," he told a news conference, with tears stopping him from speaking further.
He told broadcaster N-TV that people who saw the incident were "totally traumatised" and the street "looks a bit like after a war".
Leibe said he did not know the motive for the incident, which shocked residents of Germany's oldest town, founded by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago.
The Trierischer Volksfreund quoted an eyewitness as saying a Range Rover was driving at high speed and people had been thrown through the air. It said the car had Trier plates.
It reported that people screamed in panic when the car drove through the street.
Officers were scouring the area in search of evidence, backed by police dressed in flak jackets and carrying rifles. On the streets, Christmas lights twinkled incongruously.
Germany has tightened security on pedestrian zones across the country since a truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market in 2016 that killed 12 people and injured dozens.
In October 2019, a man opened fire on a synagogue in the city of Halle. After failing to get into the building he went on a rampage outside, killing two people.
In February this year a racist gunman killed nine migrants in Hanau near Frankfurt before killing his mother and himself. Only about a week later, a local man ploughed his car into a carnival parade in the town of Volkmarsen, injuring 61.
Germany has tightened measures to fight the coronavirus, with bars and restaurants closed, but shops and schools are still open.
"What happened in Trier is shocking. Our thoughts are with the relatives of the victims, with the numerous injured and with everyone who is currently on duty to care for the victims," Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, said on Twitter.