DENVER (AP) – A Saudi national who was denied a request to serve out the remainder of a Colorado prison sentence in his home country is suing the state prison system, alleging mistreatment following last month’s slaying of prisons director Tom Clements.
Colorado Department of Corrections officials have said they placed Homaidan al-Turki in protective custody following Clements’ shooting death because of media attention. Al-Turki’s transfer request had been denied by Clements a week before he was killed March 19 outside his home in Monument, about 50 miles south of Denver.
In the hours after Clements’ slaying, investigators were provided with dozens of leads, including recently fired employees from two state agencies, mental patients who had raised concerns and inmates, according to Roxane White, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s chief of staff who is also the acting executive director of the Department of Corrections.
In a lawsuit filed in Denver Monday, al-Turki’s attorney, Hal Haddon, alleges that Colorado officials also leaked word that the “main working theory” in the investigation was that Clements was killed in retaliation for denying the transfer for al-Turki.
Authorities have since said that former Colorado inmate Evan Spencer Ebel was found with a gun that matched the one used to shoot Clements. Ebel, a member of a white supremacist gang, died in a shootout with Texas authorities two days after Clements was killed.
Al-Turki said in the lawsuit that he has been denied phone contact, kept in administrative segregation and allowed to meet with his attorneys at Limon Correctional Facility only while in handcuffs and shackles.
In documents previously released by corrections officials, al-Turki was described as a model inmate who works with other inmates in a pre-release program, but the lawsuit alleges his treatment since Clements’ death is “fundamentally unfair and cruel.”
“There are serious human rights implications in all of this,” Haddon said in a phone interview Friday.
DOC spokeswoman Alison Morgan said Limon is a restrictive facility and al-Turki’s recent treatment wasn’t unusual. Morgan wouldn’t discuss whether prison officials were investigating a possible link between al-Turki and Clements’ slaying.
Authorities have said that al-Turki kept his Indonesian housekeeper a virtual slave and sexually assaulted her over four years. Al-Turki, a well-known member of Denver’s Muslim community, has maintained his innocence and claimed the charges were a result of anti-Muslim sentiment following the 9/11 attacks.
He was convicted in state court in 2006 of unlawful sexual contact by use of force, theft and extortion – all felonies – as well as misdemeanor counts of false imprisonment and conspiracy to commit false imprisonment. He was sentenced to 28 years to life in prison.
The U.S. attorney’s office dropped similar federal charges, which U.S. Attorney John Walsh advised Clements of in a letter sent in February opposing the transfer.
Al-Turki’s conviction angered Saudi officials and prompted the U.S. State Department to send Colorado Attorney General John Suthers to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Abdullah, Crown Prince Sultan and al-Turki’s family.
While al-Turki’s application was pending last year, the Saudi government sent letters asking Clements to approve the transfer, saying that al-Turki would be evaluated at the Al-Malaz Prison in Riyadh, treated and possibly released on parole.
In a letter dated March 11, Clements said he denied al-Turki’s request because he had not completed treatment that is required for Colorado inmates serving time for sexual assault before they’re released on parole. Al-Turki’s sentence was reduced in 2011 to eight years to life, making him eligible for parole if he completed treatment.
Haddon alleges that Clements had approved al-Turki’s transfer in January but attempted to reverse himself in March following opposition from state prosecutors and federal authorities, along with public outcry.
White said Clements reversed his decision following a discussion with the U.S. Department of Justice. White said the information provided by the federal government is classified.
“He was ready to go on it,” White said. “The information was serious enough that Tom reconsidered his decision.”
Justice Department officials in Washington did not return a message seeking comment on Friday.
Haddon in the lawsuit is asking a judge to force the Department of Corrections to honor Clements’ Jan. 14 approval of al-Turki’s foreign national offender transfer application under an international treaty with Saudi Arabia.
El Paso County sheriff’s spokesman Jeff Kramer said they continue to look at a number of angles in a broad investigation into Clements’ death.
Kramer would not discuss what role Ebel would have played. Two suspected white supremacist prison gang members called persons of interest in the case are also in custody.
– By P. Solomon Banda, AP Writer
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