NEW YORK — The lawyer for a New York City-born man serving a 15-year prison sentence for supporting al-Qaida urged a judge Friday to find the U.S. government liable for failing to quickly diagnose a medical condition after his 2010 arrest, but a federal prosecutor said he was treated properly.
The attorneys made their arguments regarding treatment of Wesam El-Hanafi in an unusual trial in Manhattan federal court.
The case arose after El-Hanafi was arrested April 2010 in Dubai, where he was earning $200,000 annually by working in computer security for a financial firm.
He sued the U.S. government in 2013 for $7 million, saying it was liable for malpractice for failing to diagnose his deep vein thrombosis soon after he experienced pain following a 16-hour flight from Dubai to the United States. The condition makes it possible for blood clots to develop.
Attorney Jake Harper told Judge Gregory H. Woods during closing arguments Friday at a week-long trial that El-Hanafi is owed damages for medical care and for the loss of future wages.
Harper said his client has a severe condition although "he looks just as normal as you and I." He said El-Hanafi's medical condition eliminates his eligibility for manual labor jobs and makes it difficult to sit for the length of time required in desk jobs.
El-Hanafi, 40, smiled and waved to a friend seated in the spectator section when he entered the courtroom.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Byars argued that El-Hanafi was predisposed to get the medical condition and did not begin experiencing the symptoms shortly after his arrest.
Byars said he likely developed the condition just a few weeks before it was diagnosed in September 2011. He said the biggest obstacle for El-Hanafi's job possibilities after his May 2023 release will be his criminal conviction.
"There's no violation of the standard of care," he said of the medical treatment he had received.
The judge did not immediately rule.
El-Hanafi pleaded guilty to supporting al-Qaida and was sentenced a year ago to the 15-year term after he apologized for making the "worst choices."
Prosecutors said he supported al-Qaida from 2007 to late 2009 by contributing tens of thousands of dollars. They also said he sent a remote-control toy car whose components could be used in an explosive device and provided technical advice about computers, including encryption software so information could be transmitted without being detected.
They said El-Hanafi directed his co-defendant at al-Qaida's request to provide surveillance of the New York Stock Exchange, though the one-page report they produced was rudimentary and of limited use.