At 10 this morning on the steps of the Heman Marion Sweatt Travis County Courthouse, Rais Bhuiyan, who was shot in the face by white supremacist Mark Stroman as part of a post-September 11, 2001 shooting spree, will announce that he's filing suit today against Gov. Rick Perry and other state officials. The suit is a last-ditch effort to prevent Stroman's execution, which is scheduled for July 20 in Huntsville.
Bhuiyan, who was working behind the counter of a Pleasant Grove convenience store when he was attacked, says in the pleading that Perry has violated his rights as a victim of a violent crime by ignoring his requests to meet with Stroman for mediation, something he's entitled to by law. "Victim restoration," improving the quality of care for victims of violent crime, is something Perry has long said is part of his platform as governor. An excerpt from the suit:
Plaintiff wishes to see reconciliation with Mark Stroman, and to pursue fill mediation with him. Plaintiff feels this way because his parents raised him with the religious principle that he is best who can forgive easily. He believes, as a Muslim, that human life is precious and that no one has the right to take another's life.
Plaintiff also seeks solace for the widows and children of murder victgims Vasudev Patel and Waqar Hasan, who are also victims in this tragedy, and who support Plaintiff in his efforts to seek reconciliation.
Plaintiffs is strongly motivated by his religious beliefs. Forgiveness is strongly motivated by his religious beliefs. Forgiveness is a long standing mechanism within many faiths, Islam being one of them, toward the healing of the soul. As a Muslim, Plaintiff is of the belief that when he forgives or promotes mercy for his attacker, the government should no longer have a duty or a right to exact the ultimate punishment upon Mr. Stroman.
We couldn't reach Bhuiyan this morning, but he and his attorney have sent a statement explaining the motivations behind the suit -- and offering a defense of Stroman's actions that resulted in two men dead and another blinded in one eye.
Bhuiyan's lawyer, Khurrum Wahid, said in a statement, "It is ironic that Rais Bhuiyan was shot by someone thinking it was a blow against Muslims, yet Islamic law would respect Rais' desire for forgiveness. The state of Texas has failed him as a victim. After suffering such a traumatic experience, surely we should respect Mr. Bhuiyan, rather than traumatize him again. We often hear, 'What about the rights of the victim!' The victim has rights even when his voice is not one of vengeance but one of forgiveness."
A press release sent last night lays out in more detail what Bhuiyan's camp says were the circumstances surrounding Stroman's state of mind before his shooting spree, which left two other men dead and Bhuiyan blinded in one eye and disfigured. Says the release:
"Fueled by his addiction to methamphetamine, which he used to medicate his post-traumatic stress disorder, Mark Stroman was close to the edge when he caught his girlfriend having an affair. Then came 9/11, and Mark Stroman responded to the fact that his half sister was killed in the World Trade Center by setting out take revenge on 'Arabs." He killed two innocent men and tried to kill Mr. Bhuiyan."
It remains unclear if Stroman's claim to have lost his half-sister on September 11 was ever verified.
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Bhuiyan and his lawyer contend that the the Dallas County District Attorney's Office "pushed forward with the death penalty" without consulting him or the families of the other victims, who he says support his campaign. They also charge that Stroman's lawyer put up a "desultory" defense.
In recent weeks, Bhuiyan has taken his campaign to save Stroman's life internationally, with profiles appearing in both The Guardian and The Independent. The last time he spoke to Unfair Park, Bhuiyan said he was moved by the support he's received in his quest. "This cause is truly a human cause," he said. In the statement he released yesterday, Bhuiyan added that "along with the families of the other victims in the case, I have been ignored and sidelined, year after year. My parents taught me to believe passionately in compassion and respect. If Governor Perry really means it when he says victims' rights are a priority, we need action rather than hollow words."Bhuiyan v Perry