Editor’s note: Karin Friedemann is a columnist with TMO. Her opinions are her own.
“I feel unsafe in PCCF, and I have a great fear for my life,” wrote Khairullozhon Matanov, 24, in a letter to this author postmarked November 1, 2014.
Artist’s rendering of Khairullozhon Matanov (r) appearing in court .
On October 24, 2014 Plymouth County Correctional Facility (PCCF) inmate Marcus Czaja, 32 was found dead in his cell and again on on November 3 another prisoner, Steven Wayne Roderick, 34, died at PCCF. Both deaths were ruled as suicides, but Matanov’s reports regarding the violence against him committed by the prison guards casts some suspicion upon these “apparent suicides.” Matanov, who is awaiting trial for allegedly lying to the FBI in an effort to downplay his relationship with accused Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was severely beaten by guards after flooding his cell in protest against the constant Islamophobic harassment at PCCF. “I couldn’t take anymore insults, they were always trying to make fun of my religion.”
The incident was reported in a detailed letter from Matanov to a friend postmarked October 24, 2014 and also by a sympathetic fellow inmate, who has since been moved to another unit. The remaining inmates reportedly taunt him in a hostile manner.
“They harass me so much, I don’t know what to do, they couldn’t see that I was being so peaceful, now even some ignorant inmates say bad things [against Islam], and when they do it, the guards play the US National Anthem, it is awful,” writes Matanov.
The US National Anthem was also blasting on October 22 at 11:15pm, when seven correctional officers sprayed tear gas into his cell. Unable to breathe, Matanov tried to get some air from under the door but was sprayed in the face. After allowing them to handcuff him, he collapsed.
“When I was like half dead not moving at all they jump on me so badly. One of them stick his finger into my right eye (it’s swollen right now full of blood). After, the same person start saying, “You [expletive] Muslim terrorist” and kick my head… I pass out from pain, then I woke up when one of them twist my hand.”
Matanov reports that he heard one of them say, “We have to take him out walking.”
“They took me out… the end? No! Horror just started. They put me in that chair with the spray all over my face and hands, left me for two and half hours in one room. I was crying and asking for help with my eye (literally burning with the pain). Ruthless human beings, I thought I am about to die. Fortunately for me it was not my time. I survived with lots of pain… No justice in this place.. If they will have an argument with me, they play national anthem, by the way when they came to get me in their [hazmat] suits they played the national anthem of USA. It is so awful, they are pulling USA down… I could hear and now I see they really really enjoyed this awful terror which they did against me.”
A week later, Matanov wrote, “Trying to get better, after all of this pain, but my eyes and my head is still not good, I can’t see properly, and I can’t read. If I do so my head goes crazy. They did not give me good medical care, even though I was beaten nearly to death.”
A former client of Matanov’s taxi service wrote in an email, “This is unbelievable. Months ago an officer told me the FBI sent him there so he would be safe…yeah right!”
Supporters contacted a number of agencies as well as the Consulate of Kyrgyzstan. It is hoped that the Kyrgyzstan ambassador to the US will visit Matanov as he did last Ramadan, after Matanov mentioned in a letter dated July 8, 2014 that he was not given any food for four days.
In a letter to this author postmarked November 6, Matanov writes: “Actually it already was bad I mean my time in prison when last time the Ambassador visited me, but Hayden told me not to talk about it to him.”
This is not the first time Matanov was punished for flooding his cell in protest of being singled out for harassment. In a letter postmarked August 21, he described another incident where he was stripped naked and taken to “Q5” – a cold, rubber room usually used for suicidal prisoners. He was left there without clothes, normal food or toilet for four days.
“Now I told this to my lawyer, guess what, it was better to tell to a wall so I could hear the echo.”
Although Matanov’s court appointed attorney, Edward Hayden said he is trying to get his client moved from Plymouth County Correctional Facility due to “the treatment he receives there,” Hayden told Boston Magazine that “the injuries did not appear as extensive as what was described in the letter… He had a black eye, he had scrapes, bruises, and that’s what I saw…some of these letters and Tweets make it seem like he was beaten to an inch of his life, and that’s not true.”
This was not the first time that Matanov’s lawyer undermined his client’s personal integrity in statements to the press. Why does Matanov’s attorney think it’s so important to downplay his client’s concerns regarding prison conditions?
WBUR reporter Bruce Gellerman tweeted on November 6 that Matanov filed a motion to withdraw his attorney Edward Hayden. There will be a closed hearing on November 20. Matanov has long wanted to be represented by his former immigration attorney, Paul Glickman but the court has so far not been willing to appoint Glickman to the case. On July 19, 2014, Judge William Young denied a motion by Edward Hayden to add Paul Glickman, a Boston lawyer, to his government-funded defense team.