Tuesday Apr 03, 201204:52 PM GMT
Hate crimes issue raised in US
Trayvon Martin supporters gather for a rally in his honor at the Bayfront Amphitheater on April 1, 2012 in Miami, Florida.
Tue Apr 3, 2012 4:51PM
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The recent killings of a Muslim woman and a young African-American in the United States have brought to light the case of hate crimes in the country.

The brutal killing of Iraqi immigrant Shaima Alawadi at her home in March raised the issue once again.

The 32-year-old mother of five was found unconscious in the dining room of her rented home in California by her 17-year-old daughter.

Police announced that the killing is being investigated as a possible hate crime because of a threatening note that was found near her, which said “This is my country. Go back to yours, terrorist.”

FBI spokesman Darrell Foxworth said the FBI has provided agents from a squad that is specifically trained to conduct hate crime investigations.

Last November, FBI reported that hate crimes against Muslim people in the US has increased by nearly 50 percent in 2010.

The Alawadi’s murder came after the killing of the unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was killed by neighborhood watch man George Zimmerman in Florida in February.

Zimmerman claimed that he had acted in self-defense, saying that the victim slammed his head into the pavement repeatedly before he fired the gunshot. He has not been charged with any crime.

Experts said the US Justice Department could bring a hate crime charge against Zimmerman if there is sufficient evidence the slaying was motivated by racial bias.

"If that was a racial epithet that preceded the attack on Trayvon Martin, we definitely have a hate crime," Donald Tibbs, a Drexel University law professor, said.

Civil rights activist Al Sharpton said the Justice Department should investigate the case as a hate crime.

"Any time you have a pattern of engagement based on someone's having a particular group in mind that qualifies for hate crime inquiry," Sharpton said.

The hate crimes law carries a potential life prison sentence when a death is involved.

The hate crimes issue is one of the most controversial topics in the Unites States, which has sparked several demonstrations across the country.

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