Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Islam and slavery in Colorado

Associated Press:

A man convicted of sexually assaulting an Indonesian housekeeper and keeping her virtually as a slave was sentenced Thursday to 28 years to life in prison.

Homaidan Al-Turki, 37, denied the charges and blamed anti-Muslim prejudice for the case against him. He said prosecutors persuaded the housekeeper to accuse him after they failed to build a case that he was a terrorist.

Al-Turki, a citizen of Saudi Arabia who lived in the Denver suburb of Aurora, was convicted June 30 of unlawful sexual contact by use of force, theft and extortion, all felonies, and misdemeanor counts of false imprisonment and conspiracy to commit false imprisonment.

Defense attorney John Richilano said he would appeal the convictions.

Prosecutors and FBI agents said Al-Turki and his wife, Sarah Khonaizan, brought the now 24-year-old woman to Colorado to care for their five children and to cook and clean for the family. An affidavit said she spent four years with the family, sleeping on a mattress on the basement floor and getting paid less than $2 a day.

Al-Turki said he treated the woman the same way any observant Muslim family would treat a daughter.

"Your honor, I am not here to apologize, for I cannot apologize for things I did not do and for crimes I did not commit," he told the judge. "The state has criminalized these basic Muslim behaviors. Attacking traditional Muslim behaviors was the focal point of the prosecution."

Al-Turki said he has been under investigation as a suspected terrorist since 1995 but has never been charged with the crime.

"I am not a terrorist and I don't advocate terrorism," he said.

Prosecutors denied Al-Turki was targeted because he was Muslim or that the woman's allegations were trumped up. Prosecutor Natalie Decker said the evidence was overwhelming.

The Associated Press is not identifying the woman because of the sexual nature of the charges.

Al-Turki, a linguist who worked at a Denver publishing and translating company, also faces trial in federal court in October on charges of forced labor, document servitude and harboring an illegal immigrant.

In April, he and Khonaizan agreed to pay the nanny about $64,000 in wages to settle a Labor Department lawsuit. He could also face restitution payments in the state case. The judge said he would rule on that later.

Khonaizan pleaded guilty to a federal immigration charge and a state theft charge. She was sentenced to home detention and probation in the federal case and two months in jail in the state case. Her attorney, Forrest Lewis, has said she wants to return to Saudi Arabia and will not fight deportation.

Saudis Import Slaves to America

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