By Madina Toure
An Algerian-American man who lived in Whitestone who pleaded guilty to terrorism and other related charges in 2012 in connection with a plot to bomb New York City synagogues attempted suicide in jail last week, according to his lawyer.
Ahmed Ferhani, who lived on 143rd Street in Whitestone, tried to hang himself in his cell at the Attica Correctional Facility, his lawyer, Lamis Deek, said.
Ferhani’s family was notified April 7, but they are currently trying to figure out exactly when he attempted suicide, Deek said.
She said they plan to make a Freedom of Information Law request to figure it out but they are assuming it happened April 6.
“He’s in a medically induced coma and he has a 50 percent chance of survival,” Deek said. “If he survives, he will be in very bad condition.”
Ferhani, 31, pleaded guilty in December 2012 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
A spokesman for the city Department of Correction confirmed that Ferhani was taken to a hospital but would not confirm that he attempted suicide.
“Inmate Ahmed Ferhani has been transferred to an outside hospital and remains in
the custody of Attica Correctional Facility,” the spokesman said.
Ferhani was born in Algeria and moved to the United States in 1995, earning an associate’s degree in business from the Borough of Manhattan Community College. He also worked as a sales associate at Saks Fifth Avenue.
Prosecutors said that between October 2010 and his arrest in May 2011, he plotted to pose as a Hasidic Jew and blow up Manhattan synagogues by hiding explosives in them. This was discovered during exchanges he had with an undercover officer.
But at the time, Deek insisted that the undercover agent tricked him, encouraging him to go through with the plan.
Deek said Ferhani wrote two letters to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in which he detailed the abuse he experienced at Attica and Great Meadow Correctional Facility, where he was previously held, and mentioned that he would face retaliation for writing to her.
“He had repeatedly informed many people that he was afraid to complain, because each complaint was met with retaliation by the officers,” she said.
She also said he wrote a letter to Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation—which first reported the attempted suicide and reviewed the letters—about his conditions at Great Meadow.
“He detailed verbal harassment, physical abuse, sexual harassment,” Deek said. “The officers at Attica repeatedly tried to isolate him from everybody else, called him a terrorist and they would say that he had bombs in his pockets, ‘Don’t go near him.’
“They would instruct the inmates to not speak with him. They were constantly threatening him,” she continued.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour