A Federal Judge in San Antonio, Texas, calls treatment of servants by a colonel from Qatar “Barbaric” and sends the foreign military officer and his wife home on one-way flights. The judge ordered the couple to, “Never, ever, enter the United States again!”
Qatari Army Colonel Hasan Al-Homoud had been on a long-term training assignment in San Antonio and was deported last week at the order of a federal district court. At issue was the mistreatment of two women servants, brought to the U.S. when Col. Al-Homoud was assigned here.
The case started in April, 2015, when one of the two servants reached out to local law enforcement, complaining that she and another servant, were locked in their apartment at night, were not fed, and had not been paid for their time working at the Colonels house in the very-upscale Dominion neighborhood of San Antonio.
The women, one from Indonesia and the other from Bangladesh told investigators that they were not allowed to eat in their employer’s home. They said they were severely punished and beaten. One claimed to have been beaten for eating discarded food from the trash can. They cited other examples: Not being allowed to communicate with relatives; they were locked into their apartment, with only mattresses on the floor; they claim to have been fed stale bread; and, were forced to work long hours. The women said they thought they would be working in the Middle East, and never expected to be brought to the United States, where they had been working since June 2014.
As reported by Breitbart Texas, the colonel and his wife, Zainab Al Hosani, were arrested by the Department of Homeland Security on May 30, 2015, and charged with engaging in forced labor by obtaining the labor and services of two persons by means of force, threats of force, physical restraint, and threats of physical restraint.
Prosecutors went into greater detail in the criminal complaint document obtained by Breitbart Texas (attached below). Prosecutors said the couple held the servants in “virtual slavery,” in primitive conditions, withholding their wages, confiscating their cell phones and passports and giving them barely enough food to survive.
The court action took place in October, 2015, as reported by Breitbart Texas when Col. Al-Homoud and his wife pleaded guilty to the charges.
Investigators were told by the servants that they were never paid, and a federal affidavit said they were forced to live in a “rundown apartment with no furnishings, no linens, utensils, clothing, television, reading material or even toilet paper.”
In response to that, Attorney Gerry Goldstein, representing the Colonel, said that in other cultures, servant class people do not use toilet paper, and do sleep on the floor on a pallet.
The charges of “engaging in forced labor” could have brought on prison time of up to ten years for the colonel and his wife. The plea agreement was presided over by Chief U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, who had to deal with a lack of direct testimony from the women. Assistant U.S. Attorney Bettina Richardson said the women were fearful of facing their employers in court. Defense Attorney John Convery, who represented the wife, said his client was terrified at the possible outcome of the case.
Afterward, Convery said there are differences in culture and language that would have to be taken into account to get a better picture of how the servants were treated. The attorney representing the Colonel said that the servants had made different statements at the time of their first interview and when they were re-interviewed for the prosecution of the case.
In a story in the San Antonio Express News, reporter Guillermo Contreras says that Judge Garcia was not happy with the plea deal arranged by the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The arrangement called for the couple to plead guilty to visa fraud and to pay $60,000 to each woman. Separately, the couple agreed to pay them additional money as part of a confidential settlement. The agreement also called for the couple’s immediate deportation back to Qatar.
At the conclusion of the case, Col. Hasan Al-Homoud, made a statement to the court saying “I take full responsibility for my conduct. My conduct has brought shame upon myself, my lovely wife, upon my family and upon my country.”
The San Antonio newspaper reported that Judge Garcia replied, “That’s it?” adding “There’s no apology to the victims?” A quick recess was called, and lead defense attorney Gerry Goldstein conferred with the Colonel, who came back and apologized, as did his wife.
Within a few hours, the couple had left San Antonio on their way back to Qatar. Judge Garcia had said that if there were any delays or problems, that the defendants would be staying in jail until their travel plans had been resolved.
Rob Milford is a reporter for Breitbart Texas. You can follow him on Twitter @milford_rob.