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November 2005
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Operation Meth Merchant update

A few months ago, I mentioned the horrible Operation Meth Merchant:

Now they’ve got this thing called Operation Meth Merchant that has bizarrely managed to arrest 32 Indians named Patel for working at convenience stores, following the law, but just not quite understanding the Engliish drug slang used by the undercover cops.

The arrests were for selling legal items like sudafed (in legal quantities), while “knowing” they would be used to make meth. The undercover cops would hit convenience stores run by Indians (who often spoke limited English) and casually mention slang terms like “cooking” to refer to meth — something the foreign clerks didn’t even understand. A stupid law, a stupid sting, and a gross injustice.
Now the ACLU is taking on the case:

‘There are too many unanswered questions about the validity of evidence against these store clerks for the prosecutions to go forward in good conscience. We have launched a full investigation to determine the extent of police misconduct in this ill-conceived operation,” Christina Alvarez, a staff attorney with the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project said in a statement yesterday.

…several of the 44 Indian suspects claimed a language barrier confused the process. At least three suspects claim that they were misidentified by the police informants who secretly taped the alleged transactions using hidden microphones or hidden cameras.

…the ACLU has launched an investigation into claims of selective arrest and prosecution based on national origin and race. […]

The accused face up to 25 years in prison, forfeiture of their stores and fines of up to 250,000 dollars. Additionally, many of those charged are potentially facing deportation.

”Ours is but the latest community targeted and blamed in the drug war, a war that has corrupted our institutions to the point where we are willing to send innocent people to prison for the sake of politics and creating a false sense of security,” said Aparna Bhattacharyya, executive director of Raksha, a Georgia-based South Asian community organisation.

”We welcome a full and thorough investigation into these cases and are committed, in the meantime, to assessing and meeting the immediate needs of the families affected,” she said.

I hope the ACLU prevails and all 44 cases are dismissed. That still would not be justice. The government cannot be allowed to get away with such blatant abuses of citizens’ rights.

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