The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey filed an appearance to represent accused Chelsea bomber Ahmad Khan Rahami in New Jersey federal court on Monday in the latest bid for legal representation of the hospitalized suspect.
The ACLU said it had been asked to represent Rahami by his father, Mohammad Rahami, and his wife, Asia Bibi Rahami, and plans to file an appearance in federal court in Manhattan, where Rahami also is charged, on Tuesday.
ACLU lawyer Alex Shalom said he had asked federal prosecutors in both New York and New Jersey to stop all efforts by federal agents to speak to Rahami, and criticized authorities for failing to provide legal counsel for a week since his arrest.
“The right of an accused person to have an attorney is a fundamental, undeniable right, regardless of the charges,” Shalom said in a statement. “No one’s interests are protected when law enforcement attempts to circumvent the Constitution.”
Shalom said he had managed to set up a conversation between Rahami’s physician at Newark’s University Hospital on Monday, the first time the family has spoken to his doctors. But Shalom said he didn’t see Rahami himself, and had no response to his request that all questioning stop.
Federal magistrates in both New Jersey and New York last week refused to appoint a federal public defender to represent him after federal prosecutors argued a federal defender couldn’t be named while Rahami is in local custody for shooting two New Jersey police officers during his arrest last week.
At the same time, however, New Jersey public defender Peter Liguori, in a letter filed in New Jersey Superior Court last week, said Rahami’s scheduled Sept. 22 state court appearance was canceled because of his medical condition.
When he attempted to visit Rahami in the hospital, Liguori said, he was told that Rahami was “unconscious and unable to speak” and was turned away by prosecutors.
Shalom said Monday, “It’s extremely disturbing that Mr. Rahami’s lawyers have not been able to verify their client’s health condition, including his level of consciousness.”
Spokesmen for New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman and Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara declined to comment on the ACLU’s entry into the case.