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 on June 10, 2010 |
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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. (more…)
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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
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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 on April 27, 2010 |
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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.
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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. (more…)
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The Center for Constitutional Rights was quick to issue a statement denouncing a recent government attempt to frighten the jury in the upcoming trial of Fahad Hashmi. In a clear attempt to criminalize those supportive of Hashmi and critical of the government’s handling of his case, the government motion filed this week requesting an “anonymous jury” conflates advocacy for Fahad’s civil and human rights with sympathy for “violent radical Islamic leanings”. The public support for Hashmi, which the government seems to fear, and in turn wants the jury to fear, consists of a wide range of voices, including the Center for Constitutional Rights, Educators for Civil Liberties, CUNY Law and other student groups, Theaters Against War, Council on American Islamic Relations -New York, Muslim Justice Initiative , as well as a growing number of concerned individuals and journalists. The actions many of these groups are advocating include encouraging people to attend the trial, writing letters of concern to the Attorney General, and gathering to hold vigil outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center where Fahad is being held.
The memorandum issued to Judge Preska this week states that the motion seeks to prevent the ” potential corruption of the judicial process”. Yet that is precisely what the requested measures, if granted, risk doing- by stoking the flames of fear and Islamophobia that already threaten to bias the jury pool. This in addition to the preemptive punitive measures Fahad has endured for nearly 3 years. As the Center for Constitutional Rights’ press release explains:
“The case against Fahad Hashmi in itself raises many red flags related to the violation of his rights, prosecutorial overreach under the material support statute, and the unduly punitive and restrictive special administrative measures under which he has been kept without trial for nearly three years. The government’s call for the jurors at his trial, which is set to begin next week, to be anonymous and kept under extra security because of the attention and political activism these issues have drawn to the case is a clear attempt to influence the jury by creating a sense of fear for their safety and to paint Mr. Hashmi as already guilty. Read the full statement here.
by Brian Pickett
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