FARGO-Four Muslim inmates have sued the Cass County Jail and several of its jailers, claiming they secretly were fed pork, according to a complaint filed in federal court.
Jail officials declared its meals were pork-free in November 2015, according to the complaint, but continued to serve pork to inmates, including Muslims whose religion prohibits them from eating pork, the inmates allege in their hand-written lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Fargo.
"We believe that having kitchen staff prepare separate meals for Muslim inmates was becoming a hassle and affecting their budget," the complaint said.
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The complaint says inmates weren't told why the jail declared itself pork-free, though the plaintiffs-including Ashley Hunter, the man charged with murder in the slayings of two men in north Fargo last summer-allege it was in response to requests from Muslim inmates.
Prior to jail staff claiming they didn't serve any meals with pork in them, Muslim inmates were served pork-free food, the inmates say in their complaint.
"We believe their declaration of being a non-pork facility was a lie to calm our worries of being fed pork in any form," the complaint said.
Uyin Alau, one of the plaintiffs, told The Forum in a phone interview that he and other inmates learned the jail was serving them pork from a Muslim corrections officer, who brought them labels and recipes from the jail's kitchen that listed pork products as ingredients in inmates' meals. He said the inmates believed they weren't being fed pork until the officer told them otherwise.
The corrections officer who allegedly tipped off the inmates isn't named in the lawsuit.
The inmates are seeking $100 million, a public apology and the firing of jail staff connected to serving pork to Muslim inmates, according to the complaint.
"They fed us pork during the holy month of Ramadan," Alau said, "which is completely disrespectful. It's the most disrespectful thing you could do to somebody."
"We have no one left to trust at this point," said Alau, who recently pleaded guilty to helping rob a Casey's General Store in January 2015.
Inmates Donivan Weis and Abdi Sahel also signed on to the lawsuit. Weis was arrested on drug charges in March, and Sahel is charged with simple assault, attempted kidnapping, terrorizing and robbery.
It's not the first time a Muslim inmate has accused Cass County jailers of failing to honor his religious practices.
In 2012, Cass County Jail inmate Tyrone Jones accused the jail of treating Muslims in the jail unfairly when trying to practice their religion, alleging jail staff didn't allow Muslims to hold prayer services in the facility's day room.
The new lawsuit, which was filed July 8, names the jail and six corrections officers as defendants. The defendants haven't filed a written response.
Lt. Amanda Henrickson said the jail administrator is out of town, and she had no knowledge of a lawsuit and couldn't comment.
Sgt. Tim Briggeman, spokesman for the sheriff's office, said he was not aware of the lawsuit.