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…
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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 on May 3, 2010 |
2 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.
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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
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