THE PEACE THRU JUSTICE FOUNDATION
11006 Viers Mill Rd, STE L-15, PMB 298
Silver Spring, MD. 20902
MUHARRAM 1433 A.H.
(November 30, 2011)
Assalaamu Alaikum (Greetings of Peace):
If this was your daughter, what would you do? The case of Mona Wahab
What if you received a call in the middle of the night from an anonymous stranger, and the caller informed you that your daughter had just passed away, and that there was no need for you to travel to the other side of the country because she had already been cremated. What would you do?
When Samirat Hafiz received such a call, she did precisely what I believe most dedicated mothers would do. She immediately took a flight from Columbus, Ohio, where she lives, to the bay area of California where her late daughter (Mona Wahab) resided; and upon her arrival she wanted answers to her questions.
What if after arriving in your deceased daughter’s hometown, you learned that her remains were not yet cremated; and you demanded to see her, to take possession of her remains in order to insure that she would have a proper burial according to your religious beliefs; but your efforts were met with a wall of resistance. What would you do?
What if you went to your daughter’s home, but you were barred by authorities from going in; and you had to stand on the outside and observe persons who were not your family remove your daughter’s possessions from her home…and you were powerless to do anything but stand and watch. What would you do?
And what if, almost two weeks after your daughter reportedly passed away from an alleged terminal illness that you (her parent) knew nothing about, her body did end up being cremated against your wishes. What would you do?
Roughly four years after this living nightmare unfolded for Samirat Hafiz – an Egyptian-American retiree of the U.S. government (who immigrated to this country of “liberty” and “justice” decades ago) – she has been on a personal jihad for answers and accountability…and time is running out.
A friend in Columbus advised Sr. Samirat to solicit us for advice and support several months ago; and after hearing her story, and the emotional and physical toll that it has taken on her (and her futile attempts to get organizational support for her quest for answers and accountability), we decided to do what little we could to help generate the communal support that she so desperately needs.
A summary of this disturbing case
Mona Wahab died in northern California on or about December 15, 2007. Her mother, Sr. Samirat Hafiz of Columbus Ohio, believes that her daughter did not die a natural death. She believes that a cover-up has ensued to mask the true cause of death and the persons responsible (if foul play was indeed involved).
The official record states that Mona Wahab was disabled in 1997 from Fibromyalgia, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and Myofascial Pain Syndrome. It further states that she was diagnosed with metastic breast cancer in July 2006, and that on December 15, 2007, she succumbed to that disease. The official record also states that, “Owing to her disease and pain medications, Wahab was completely bed-ridden and semi-conscious throughout the period October 2007 until she died December 15, 2007.”
According to Sr. Samirat, there are a number of facts which not only conflict with the official account, but also raise a series of disturbing questions pointing to the high probability of cover-up.
At the very least, from what I’ve learned since I began investigating the case in the month of Ramadan, the mother has been treated from day one in a shockingly dismissive manner, and the rights that she should have been entitled to, as Mona Wahab’s mother, were callously ignored (to say the least)!
And the question arises, would this have happened to Samirat Hafiz if she was not an immigrant from a predominantly Muslim Arab country, who still speaks with a rather heavy accent (despite her decades in the United States)? I don’t think so.
Here is a brief outline of some of the major points of conflict (as documented by this determined mother):
1. Janelia Thurman (Mona’s former cleaning lady, who claimed to be the executor of Mona’s estate), claimed that Mona was unconscious for two days and that she died under hospice care; yet Sutter VNA & Hospice stated that they did not provide any medical care for Mona Wahab; but that they provided some limited service for Mona (a lady to help her with her chores), and that this service was canceled about a week before her death.
2. The Berkeley Police Department repeated Thurman’s allegation that Mona died under hospice care; but the police report reveals that they did not investigate Thurman’s allegation or check with the hospice agency.
3. Berkeley Police reported that Mona did not die in Berkeley, yet the death certificate lists Berkeley as the place of death.
4. Berkeley police never investigated Mona’s apartment, nor did they treat it as a potential crime scene. Other persons were allowed into the apartment, but Sr. Samirat, her mother, was never permitted entry; she was even barred from retrieving her own personal items that were in her daughter’s residence. (She also notes that the police refused to take a statement from her regarding her daughter’s suspicious death.) She painfully notes on this matter:
“I was treated very badly by the BPD – they treated me disrespectfully. I went to their police station several times but they refused to talk with me or take my statement concerning the suspicious death of my daughter…”
5. Mona’s doctor, Dr. Carol J. Jessop, said that she didn’t sign Mona’s death certificate because she was in England. Dr. Jessop reportedly stated Dr. Bradley Stuart signed Mona’s death certificate, and yet Dr. Jessop’s signature appears on it. (Dr. Stuart practices hospice care in Emeryville, California, but he did not sign Mona’s death certificate.)
6. Sr. Samirat insists that if her daughter was terminally ill she would have known about it. Mona, she argues, had a non-lethal work related injury; and she also had chemical sensitivity like her mother and grandfather (who died at age 104). Just about two months before her death she moved into a new apartment, replaced all of the flooring in the apartment and purchased new furniture (not the actions of a terminally ill person on the verge of death).
7. Sr. Samirat said she spoke with her daughter by telephone twice in the week before her death. She sounded normal and didn’t mention any illness.
8. Mona’s elderly neighbor, Margaret Nelson, said Mona checked on her every day, and that Mona was not sick; that she just had the same allergy problems that she had always had.
9. Mona’s landlord, David Hertzer, couldn’t believe that she was dead. He repeated the same statement as Ms. Nelson, “Mona was not sick.”
10. The funeral home – Pacific Internment Service, INC. – denied Sr. Samirat access to her daughter’s body. In addition to wanting to see her daughter’s remains, Sr. Samirat wanted to incur the expense of an independent autopsy to verify cause of death. She painfully noted:
“I was not allowed to see my daughter’s body before she was cremated; I was not allowed to do an autopsy; I was not allowed to bury my daughter in accordance with our religious beliefs. And they refused to give me any information concerning cause of death, or even show me a document that gave them the right to burn my daughter, or to prevent me the right to see my daughter’s body.”
11. Evidence was not preserved because Mona’s apartment was never designated as a [potential] crime scene. No autopsy was performed and the body was cremated!
12. Personal items belonging to Samirat Hafiz that were taken from Mona’s apartment include: (a) her social security number, (b) financial information, (c) credit card information, (d) bank accounts information, (e) passport information, (f) security clearance information. (Sr. Samirat retired from the Department of Defense).
13. Sr. Samirat has not been able to find an attorney in California willing to take the case – and she is now in the 11th hour of running the risk of having her lawsuit (which she filed pro se) dismissed. (Time is of the essence!)
On Monday, September 12, petitions containing over 1500 signatures (acquired primarily during the month of Ramadan) were delivered to the Justice Department to request a civil rights investigation of this case. Sr. Samirat and I delivered the package together, which also included a cover letter addressed to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
I end with a very specific request for an answer to an important question for anyone who may be capable of answering (esp. the lawyers within our listserv):
Out of sheer necessity, Sr. Samirat is in the process of filing the papers (again pro se) in which she must name the defendants in the case. After naming the defendants she must have an attorney licensed in Cali to represent her from that point on – i.e. to issue subpoenas, to take depositions, etc.
To buy more time to secure a lawyer in California willing to take on this case:
IS IT POSSIBLE FOR SAMIRAT HAFIZ TO DISMISS HER CASE WITHOUT PREJUDICE IN CALIFORNIA (preserving her right to re-file it later)?
If a lawyer out there can answer this simple question, it would be greatly appreciated! Although I have not known Samirat Hafiz that long, the toll that this ordeal has taken on her over the past four years is clearly evident!
In the struggle for peace thru justice,
El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan