Man Says FBI Jailed Him for not Being a Snitch

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The FBI and immigration service jailed an Iranian-born legal U.S. resident for 19 months because he wouldn’t infiltrate San Jose-area mosques as a paid informant, the man claims in court.
     Hassan Abpikar sued Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers David Harris and Dwayne Sanchez and FBI agent Robert Carr on Tuesday in Federal Court.
     He claims the men violated his civil rights, falsely imprisoned him, assaulted and battered him and caused him emotional distress throughout the ordeal.
     Neither the United States nor the agencies the officers work for are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
     Abpikar, 54, was born in Tehran and came to the United States legally on a student visa, eventually earning advanced degrees in math and chemistry from San Jose State University, he says in the lawsuit.
     After he became a permanent legal resident in 1983, Abpikar says he applied twice for citizenship – and both times missed his interview due to “time constraints.”
     In 2006 – two years after being denied citizenship for missing the second interview – Abpikar says San Jose Police arrested him for using a fake ID. Police released him shortly after the arrest, Abpikar says, but ICE picked him up almost immediately despite his permanent legal resident status.
     He says immigration agents had held him for two weeks when an FBI agent came calling.
     According to the complaint, the agent promised his immediate release if he would work as an FBI informant.
     Abpikar claims he took the agent’s card, agreed to go to the FBI office in San Jose the next day, and was promptly released from custody.
     Abpikar says he visited the FBI office the next day. He claims the agent said he had already conducted a background check on him and decided he was a perfect candidate to infiltrate local mosques and keep an ear out for terrorism plans and threats.
     But Abpikar says he didn’t agree to become an informant – that he needed time to think about it. He says he never returned to the FBI office, and was arrested during a dinner with friends three months later.
     Again, the charge was using a fake ID, Abpikar says. And once again, ICE put an immigration hold on him.
     After another two weeks in federal custody, Abpikar says, defendant Sanchez served him with a notice to appear in immigration court. The notice alleged that Abpikar had “committed two crimes of moral turpitude and was therefore removable from the United States,” according to the complaint.
     But the immigration judge tossed the case, as Abpikar had not been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude. The judge ordered his immediate release, but he remained in custody for another four days before being let go, Abpikar says.
     He claims that two years passed before he was harassed by police again. This time, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputies arrested him on a number of charges, including petty theft and – once again – possessing false identification. He bonded out, but was arrested again after the bail bond company canceled his bail “under the order of defendants,” the complaint states.
     This time, Abpikar says, he told the FBI he would be an informant if they could arrange his release. But he claims that defendant Carr – also known as Garr – had taken the first agent’s place and said the only way they’d have a deal is if Abpikar became a permanent informant for the bureau.
     Abpikar says he declined the offer, and that defendants Harris and Sanchez then paid him a visit in jail. He says the men interrogated him about his religious practices as a Shia Muslim, his ex-wife and whether he had a criminal record – questions that Abpikar says led to more criminal charges against him.
     At one point, Abpikar says, the officers offered him naturalization in exchange for his services as an informant. He says he demanded the offer in writing and was refused.
     After his arraignment, he says, a Santa Clara County judge told the agents that ICE does not have jurisdiction in state matters and ordered Abpikar released on bail. But the agency put an immigration hold on him again, blocking his release.
     After another 46 days in jail, Abpikar says, he at last received a hearing before an immigration judge. There, he was charged with making false statements under oath during his naturalization proceedings.
     “Plaintiff was indicted before a grand jury on Aug. 20, 2008. Defendant Sanchez was the only witness to testify before the grand jury. Plaintiff alleges based on belief and information that defendants retaliated against him. Due to plaintiff’s refusal to become a puppet of the FBI as an informant, defendants Carr, Harris and Sanchez framed plaintiff as a criminal,” the complaint states.
     Although the immigration judge ordered Abpikar released on bail, he claims a second judge intervened after the agents indicated that Abpikar had ties to terrorist groups and was a flight risk.
     In January 2009 – after 6 months in custody – Abpikar says Santa Clara County correctional officers abused him verbally and physically, twisting his wrists and shouting derogatory terms about his religion and national origin. He believes Carr, Harris and Sanchez ordered the abuse.
     Santa Clara County is not a defendant in the case.
     Six months later, after telling his story to the San Jose Mercury News, Abpikar says he was assaulted again – this time by an inmate being held by the U.S. Marshal’s Service, which – like ICE – routinely uses the Santa Clara jail to house prisoners. The assault caused nerve damage in Abpikar’s brain, and he again asserts that Carr, Harris and Sanchez ordered the attack.
     Abpikar eventually appealed his immigration case to the 9th Circuit. A month after filing the appeal, he was released from custody without being told why.
     The 9th Circuit issued an opinion in November 2013, finding that the immigration judge had incorrectly determined that Abpikar had committed a crime of moral turpitude and ordering the judge to use a different test to make its determination. The remand won’t be heard until 2016.
     In all, Abpikar says he has spent more than 19 months in detention due to immigration holds.
     It should be noted that while living in Oklahoma on a student visa in 1979, Abpikar pleaded guilty to calling in a bomb threat after he changed his mind about buying a car at a dealership. He received a two-year suspended sentence, although Abpikar told the San Jose Mercury News in 2009 that he was unaware he had been convicted since he didn’t serve jail time – hence his failure to mention the conviction during naturalization proceedings.
     Abpikar also has a 1999 conviction for shoplifting on his record, according to the Mercury News.
     He seeks punitive damages for constitutional violations, assault and battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and conspiracy.
     He is represented by Angelica Ayar of San Francisco.

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