Rego Park man admits threatening Muslims: FBI

By Sadef Ali Kully

A Rego Park resident has pleaded guilty in federal court in Brooklyn to sending threatening communications from New York to an employee of the Council on American Islamic Relations, a civil rights and advocacy group, in Washington, D.C., the Federal Bureau of Investigation said.

Bernhard Laufer, a 58-year-old resident of Rego Park, has pleaded guilty to another hate crime. In November 2012, Laufer allegedly stabbed a Flushing Muslim imam while yelling anti-Muslim slurs at him and was charged with attempted murder and assault, according to the Queens district attorney’s office. The case has not yet gone to trial.

In the latest episode, Laufer admitted that he sent threatening communications to the employee of the Council on American Islamic Relations in June 2014, according to the criminal complaint filed by Justice Department. These communications threatened the staff with significant bodily harm and death, the complaint said.

“Those who make violent threats to others because of race, religion or national origin must be held accountable,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to vigorously prosecuting those who engage in such conduct.”

CAIR, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights group, said Laufer allegedly sent a number of death threats to Executive Director Nihad Awad and other CAIR staff over the past week.

“We thank all the state and national law enforcement authorities whose swift and professional action made this arrest possible,” said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper. “This is yet another incident demonstrating the actual, imminent harm that can result from Islamophobia.”

He also mentioned that CAIR launched a campaign promoting interfaith unity to counter anti-Islam ads placed on Washington, D.C., area buses by a hate group led by Pamela Geller.

Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skully@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.