Convicted al Qaeda supporter, U.S. face off in medical malpractice trial

NEW YORK A New York man serving a 15-year prison sentence for providing support to al Qaeda is urging a federal judge to award him $7 million because of a medical condition he says went untreated while in U.S. custody.

Lawyers for Wesam El-Hanafi, 40, and the U.S. government made their closing arguments on Friday in a week-long medical malpractice trial over whether the prison system failed to timely diagnose and treat a blood clot in a deep vein in his calf.

El-Hanafi, a Brooklyn-born man who U.S. prosecutors say facilitated surveillance of the New York Stock Exchange, contends his symptoms began shortly after his arrest in Dubai in 2010.

In a lawsuit filed in 2013, El-Hanafi said after his arrest, police in Abu Dhabi shackled his feet during his detention, and that on a 16-hour flight to Washington his leg use was discouraged.

His lawyer, Jake Harper, said after departing the airplane, El-Hanafi began experiencing pain in his right calf, initial symptoms of a blood clot condition called deep vein thrombosis.

“We had consistent complaints about pain by Mr. El-Hanafi since that date,” he told U.S. District Judge Gregory Woods, who presided over the non-jury trial.

Despite that, Harper said El-Hanafi’s condition went undiagnosed until being treated at a New York hospital in September and October 2011, when ultrasounds were taken.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Byers argued those same ultrasounds along with later ones showed the condition was in early stages at that time.

He called El-Hanafi’s condition hereditary and said it “was most likely not preventable, no matter how early it was caught.”

“There was no violation of the standard of care,” he said.

El-Hanafi, who is seeking $7 million in damages, pleaded guilty in 2010 to charges including that he provided material support to terrorists and was sentenced in January 2015 to 15 years in prison.

He worked as an information technology employee for Lehman Brothers at the bank’s Dubai offices until his arrest

Prosecutors said El-Hanafi traveled to Yemen in 2008 and swore an allegiance to al Qaeda.

He then used his expertise to help advise al Qaeda contacts how to avoid detection while communicating online, and also sent money and equipment to al Qaeda contacts, prosecutors said.

At the direction of Yemen-based contacts, El-Hanafi also assigned an associate to perform surveillance of U.S. locations, including the New York Stock Exchange, as potential attack targets, prosecutors said.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)

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