News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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June 27, 2013

Terre Haute prison warden: Muslims can pray in pairs

INDIANAPOLIS — The warden of a federal prison holding high-risk inmates including American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh insisted today that he was obeying a court order to allow daily group prayer by permitting inmates to pray in pairs within their cells.

Warden John Oliver told a federal judge today that when the prison in Terre Haute allowed group prayer earlier this year, Muslim inmates formed gangs and bullied other prisoners.

Lindh attended the hearing in Indianapolis by video conference from the high-security unit that houses he and about 40 other inmates, including several convicted on terror charges. Lindh did not testify, but listened silently with his arms at his sides.

U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus Stinson ruled Jan. 11 that barring Lindh and his fellow Muslims from engaging in daily group prayer violates a 1993 law that bans the government from curtailing religious speech without showing a compelling interest. Magnus Stinson issued an order demanding that the prison allow group prayer.

Ken Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a motion in Lindh’s name in April asking the judge to find the warden in contempt. The motion argued that Oliver wasn’t meeting the requirements of the court order because he allowed only three group prayers per day in a single room, instead of the five that Lindh said his faith requires.

But Oliver said he believed he was fulfilling the order’s mandates, while balancing inmates’ religious rights with the security needs of the special unit that severely restricts inmates’ communications with the outside world.

The prison converted a recreation room into a “meditation room” to accommodate group prayer in March, but Muslim inmates, who make up more than half of the 42 offenders in the unit, used the inmate-led prayers to set up a prison gang, Oliver said. Some Muslim inmates “shunned” others by banning them from the prayer group, controlled access to food, and claimed the room as their territory by leaving prayer rugs and other religious items there. Oliver said this intimidated inmates of other faiths and deterred them from using the room.

A group of Catholic inmates gave up trying to use the room, Oliver said. “They said it was the Muslim room,” he testified.

In response to what Oliver called “gang activity,” he changed the rules in May, barring use of the meditation room for group prayer and limiting prayer to two inmates per single cell, which he said was more secure.

Falk pointed out that group activities besides prayer were not restricted.

He said a sanction against the warden was not necessary, but that he needs to understand “that he has not yet complied with what this court has ordered.”

Magnus Stinson said she will rule later on whether the prison has violated her order.

The lawsuit was originally filed in 2009 by two Muslim inmates in the unit. Lindh joined the lawsuit in 2010, and the case has drawn far more attention since then. The other plaintiffs have dropped out as they were released from prison or transferred to other units.

U.S. troops captured Lindh in Afghanistan in 2001. Lindh, who was raised Catholic, was accused of fighting for the Taliban to help them build a pure Islamic state. In 2002, he pleaded guilty to supplying services to the now-defunct Taliban government and carrying explosives for them. He was transferred to the Terre Haute prison in 2007. He is eligible for release in 2019.

— Associated Press

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  • Grave.jpg Airman laid to rest back home in Indiana six decades after death

    Unchecked tears rolled down Paul Martin’s lined face as he clutched the hand of an Air Force servicewoman who handed him a handwritten note at the graveside service for his older brother.
    The note said simply it was an honor to attend the burial of Airman 3rd Class Howard E. Martin six decades after the Globemaster miliary transport plane he was on crashed into the side of an Alaskan glacier.
    Hundreds of people in this small central Indiana town lined the streets and attended the full military services for Howard Martin, one of 17 servicemen’s remains reccovered recently among the 52 people who died in the Nov. 22, 1952, tragedy on Mount Gannett 50 miles east of Anchorage.
    The wreckage remained submerged beneath the snow and ice of the Colony Glacier until 2012 when it was spotted by an Alaska National Guard helicopter crew. It took another two years to retrieve the remains and send them home to their families.
    Howard Martin was 21 years old at the time of the nighttime crash; his remains were identified on April 18, 2014, exactly 83 years from the date of his birth.
    Paul Martin, 81, recounted the long wait for the return of his brother, expressing relief for the family to have his final resting place at home in Indiana. He said that was the eternal wish of his parents before they passed away several years ago.
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    Niece Rusti Koons said she was touched by the large community turnout for her uncle’s funeral and burial. “It was very overwhelming,” she said. “I have never seen such support.”
    Jane Buttry, 76, of Elwood, holding an American flag, was among residents who stood along the funeral procession route to the cemetery.
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    Traci Moyer is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin of Anderson, Ind. Contact
    her at tmoyer@heraldbulletin.com.

    See more at: www.cnhinews.com/cnhins_news/x1736709860/Airman-laid-to-rest-back-home-in-Indiana-six-decades-after-death#sthash.wWekbSlj.dpuf.


     

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  • united way.jpg UW kicks off pilot campaign

    Dottie King remembers the day she saw a young man leaving St. Ann’s Dental Clinic after having 17 teeth pulled. He had not received sufficient dental care before that day so his need was dramatic. That was unlike King, who had visited the dentist regularly since childhood, but still found getting a tooth filled not on her list of fun things to do. “I thought to myself, ‘I never have thought about the blessing of dental care,’” King recalled, sharing that story on Thursday morning with other volunteers for the United Way of the Wabash Valley.

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  • MET 071014 181 HILL.jpg Indiana’s director of homeland security sees unmanned systems’ potential

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    A celebrity stunt man named Jim “Crash” Moreau is scheduled to perform at Terre Haute’s Wigwam Skate and Event Center on Saturday.

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