A chapter closed this week in the case of Syed Fahad Hashmi. As supporters packed the courtroom and two overflow rooms at 500 Pearl Street, Judge Loretta Preska pronounced a sentence of 15 years, the maximum allowed for under the plea bargain accepted by Fahad after nearly 3 years in severe solitary confinement. Referring to Fahad’s “violent ideology” and suggesting the need for a strong “public deterrent”, the judge accepted and reinforced the prosecution’s assertion that Fahad had spent years developing a dangerous ideology and was only waiting for the moment to act on it- a notion rendered absurd when considering that this action the prosecution is referring to consisted of allowing an acquaintance to stay at his apartment and having some knowledge of what this acquaintance planned to do with a bag of waterproof socks and ponchos.
Prior to the sentencing Fahad addressed the court and his supporters, making his first public statement since being arrested in 2006. As he began his statement, Judge Preska stopped him abruptly, asking him to go slower so he could be understood and so that the court stenographer could take down his words. In apologizing for his rapid speech, Fahad explained that because of the Special Administrative Measures he has been under, he had not really spoken very much to people for the past 3 years. As he continued, it was clear that despite the harrowing treatment Fahad has endured, he was still the student his former professor Jeanne Theoharis often makes reference to, alive if not well, searching to engage others with intellect and reason.
He provided an account of what had happened from his perspective, cited numerous hadiths from the Quran, and explained to the court how he has come to understand his situation in regards to Islamic law. Continue Reading »
Posted in General Info, Trial Watch | Tagged ADX Florence, Brendon McGuire, Eric Holder, Judge Loretta Preska, Junaid Babar, Metropolitan Correctional Center, Special Administrative Measures, Supermax, Syed Fahad Hashmi | 6 Comments »
The following statement by Wallace Shawn and Deborah Eisenberg was delivered outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City on May 3, 2010 where supporters of Fahad Hashmi have been gathering since last October to bear witness to the inhumane conditions of Fahad’s detention and to call for an end to the US government’s use of “Special Administrative Measures”, solitary confinement, and gross abuses of due process in “terrorism” cases. The statement comes one week after Fahad accepted a government plea bargain.
It’s obviously not irrational for Americans to be afraid of terrorist attacks or to try to prevent them. But if we don’t arrive at a rational approach to dealing with the threat of such attacks, we will find ourselves falling to the lowest levels of a police state with the speed of an elevator whose cables have snapped. At the start and at the finish of the Hashmi case, tricks of the theatre have been used to make a human being look terrifying to an audience. By the extreme conditions in which he was restrained, he was made to.seem like a dangerous animal, so ferocious that only the tightest and thickest chains could prevent him from eating us alive. By the layers of isolation which kept him from communicating with the outside world, his words were made to seem so poisonous, so hateful and powerful, that if they could be heard they would knock down walls and devastate cities. And at the end, the protection accorded to those who would determine his innocence or guilt made it appear that he belonged to a movement so vast and so mighty that it had more power than the greatest criminal gangs to strike down its enemies wherever they might hide. In the face of these frenzied theatrical devices, which not only presume the guilt of the defendant but scream it out across the public square, it’s hardly surprising that the defendant has lost faith that our system of justice is really based on the presumption of innocence, and that, faced therefore with trying to prove a negative, that he is NOT a terrorist, to the satisfaction of a terrorized jury, he has decided to withdraw his claim of innocence. Meanwhile, down the street, the criminals of high finance, who have undoubtedly caused the suffering and even the death of countless human beings, go unpunished and instead are rewarded with prizes of untold wealth.
-Wallace Shawn and Deborah Eisenberg
For more on Fahad’s plea and the context in which it was made, please read the statement of Faisal Hashmi on behalf of the family:
It disturbs us greatly that a young man known as a pillar of his Queens community, who worked and studied hard and who, in the tumult of growing up Muslim in America, choose a path of religious and political activism, came to be demonized as an extreme danger to the country he called home. Read more…
Posted in Actions, Community Voices, General Info | Tagged due process, solitary confinement, Special Administrative Measures, Syed Fahad Hashmi, Wallace Shawn | 3 Comments »
Dear Mr. Weiser,
I am a third year law student at City University of New York School of Law, as well as a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism (’02). I have been following the Syed Fahad Hashmi case over the past few months, and I am writing because I found that your article, “Ex-Brooklyn College Student Admits Conspiring to Help Al Qaeda” omitted several crucial pieces of information that would have allowed a reader to understand Fahad Hashmi’s case in context.
First, your article does not make clear that Mr. Hashmi has been in solitary confinement for nearly three years, an extraordinary measure for the government to take pre-trial. Many American citizens would be shocked to hear that this kind of detention is being justified as an “administrative” measure. You also did not mention that Mr. Hashmi was unable to see classified information that the government had planned to use against him. The use of classified information continues to raise serious constitutional concerns about a defendant’s ability to adequately participate in his defense.
I am also curious why your article left out the news that you had reported the day before, the judge’s granting of the government’s last-minute motion for an anonymous jury under extra security measures. The judge’s decision and the speculative basis on which it was granted was an unprecedented extension of the case law proscribing the extremely limited occasion on which anonymous juries are to be granted. There is good reason to be concerned that these measures would have prejudiced the jury. These factors were all highly relevant to the circumstances under which Mr. Hashmi accepted the plea bargain.
Continue Reading »
Posted in Community Voices, Media Monitoring | Tagged anonymous jury, Benjamin Weiser, classified information, material support, media, plea bargain, solitary confinement, Special Administrative Measures, Syed Fahad Hashmi | 2 Comments »
On Tuesday April 27, Fahad Hashmi took a government plea bargain. He pleaded guilty to 1 count of conspiracy for allowing an acquaintance to store waterproof socks, ponchos and raincoats in his apartment. The government dropped the other 3 charges. Fahad made this decision after having served 3 long years in solitary confinement and one day after Judge Preska approved the government’s recent request for an anonymous jury with extra security measures. In addition to the use of secret evidence and indefinite solitary confinement in Fahad’s case, the move to have an anonymous jury raised already heightened concerns as to whether a fair trial was even possible. With sentencing to happen on June 7, Fahad faces a maximum of 15 years, as opposed to the 70 years he might have faced if he had been convicted on all 4 counts. With time already served (4 years total) and considerations for good behavior, Fahad could be out in less than 10 years. It is of note that on the eve of the trial the government was willing to shave 55 years off the potential sentence.
Today’s decision does not in any way detract from the importance of the work we’ve been doing and the civil rights and human rights issues that Fahad’s case has raised. The government’s use of Special Administrative Measures and the attacks on due process in “terrorism” cases like Fahad’s continue and cast a pall on the US justice system. For that reason, we plan to hold our usual vigil on Monday night outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center. We hope you will spread the word and join us.
We will be posting further thoughts and analysis on Fahad’s case and the attendant issues in the coming week.
CUNY 4 Fahad
Theaters Against War
Educators for Civil Liberties
Posted in General Info, Trial Watch | Tagged anonymous jury, civil liberties, human rights, Metropolitan Correctional Center, Syed Fahad Hashmi | 2 Comments »
Yesterday, in a ruling, Judge Preska granted the government’s eleventh-hour motion for an anonymous jury. The government requested three things with respect to the jury:
1) the potential jurors on the voir dire panel, and the jurors and alternates selected for the petit jury, not reveal their names, addresses, or places of employment;
2) during trial, the jurors be kept together during recesses and taken to or provided lunch as a group each by the United States Marshals Service; and
3) at the beginning and end of each trial day, the jurors be transported together by the United States Marshals Service between the courthouse and an undisclosed central location, at which they can assemble from, or leave for, their respective communities.
Continue Reading »
Posted in General Info, Trial Watch | Tagged anonymous jury, fair trial, judicial process, media, pre-trial publicity, Sixth Amendment, Syed Fahad Hashmi, United States v. Ross, United States v. Stewart, voir dire | 2 Comments »
Judge Preska’s ruling yesterday morning to deny Fahad access to a public jury is just another manifestation of the lack of due process in his trial, and will serve to enable the complicity of our judicial system in the abridgment of his rights as a citizen and human being. The motion says jurors, the very people deciding fate, should not be required to disclose their names, addresses or places of employment, and that they be kept under the watchful eyes of the U.S. Marshal Service. As William Fisher points out, the amount of privacy that the potential jurors are afforded when asked questioned raises the issue of the definition of “impartial jury.” Not to mention these types of legal proceedings are only used in rare instances, for seriously dangerous defendants such as the mobster John Gotti and the 1993 World Trade Center bomber. It creates in the minds of the jury that Fahad himself is dangerous even before the trial begins. Even by the government’s worst suspicions about Fahad, he nowhere meets the precedent for anonymous juries.
by Jamie Chosak
Posted in Community Voices, General Info | Tagged anonymous jury, due process, impartial jury, Syed Fahad Hashmi, William Fisher | Leave a Comment »
This morning I woke up thinking about why the SAMs (special administrative measures) that keep Fahad in solitary confinement have not been lifted — lifting them would have meant changing legal strategy, it would have been an admission by the government that Fahad is harmless. Keeping him in such conditions feeds into the perception that he is dangerous, invites the public to speculate, Would the government keep an innocent man in such conditions?
I returned to Judge Preska’s decision, U.S. v. Hashmi, 621 F. Supp.2d 76) denying the defense motion that the use of SAMs in Fahad’s case was unconstitutional. In her analysis of whether the Bureau of Prisons violated any fundamental rights with the use of these measures, Judge Preska considered whether the regulations were “reasonably related to legitimate penological objectives, or whether [they] represent[ed] an exaggerated response to those concerns,” under a four-factor test from the Supreme Court in Turney v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78):
[F]irst, whether there is a valid, rational connection between the regulation and the legitimate governmental interest used to justify it; second, whether there are alternative means for the prisoner to exercise the right at issue; third, the impact that the desired accommodation will have on guards, other inmates, and prison resources; and fourth, the absence of ready alternatives.
Id. at 86. (citing Turner at 89-91) (internal citations omitted)
The judge only really considered the first factor (supposedly, because the defense at the time did not offer alternative solutions on how the Bureau of Prisons could better manage its security concerns), finding that “[t]he Acting Attorney General requested that the BOP implement the measures because of the risk that Hashmi’s communications could result in death or seriously bodily injury to other persons. The restrictions are a rational means toward that legitimate penological objective.” Id. As for the basis of the Attorney General’s conclusion, Judge Preska considered, “evidence of the Defendant’s willingness to provide aid to Al-Qaeda through his cell phone and use of his apartment; the Defendant’s stated intention to overthrow the United States through whatever means necessary; and the Defendant’s threatening statements to British authorities.” Id.
In sum, the government made out its case for SAMs by merely bringing the flimsy charges (the storage of ponchos and socks and the use of a cell phone) the case rests on and pointing to Fahad’s (understandably) angry utterances at the time he was apprehended at Heathrow Airport. Continue Reading »
Posted in Trial Watch | Tagged Department of Justice, Guantanamo, Judge Preska, national security, SAMs, Special Administrative Measures, Syed Fahad Hashmi | Leave a Comment »