Trial for Syed Fahad Hashmi-UPDATE

Posted by on Feb 7th, 2010 and filed under Community. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Trial for  Syed “Fahad” Hashmi, Wednesday, April 28th, 2010 500 Pearl St, Manhattan, NY  @ TBA
[In front of Judge Preska]. The Family requests to show up in the court in large numbers.


UPDATE February 9th, 2010

February 9, 201 Huffington Post

Kidnapped by the State

Amitava Kumar

What do you do if a young man who was a student in your class is thrown in prison on a terrorism charge?

Jeanne Theoharis teaches Political Science at Brooklyn College. In June 2006, when British authorities detained 26-year-old Syed Fahad Hashmi at Heathrow Airport, she remembered the youth from her class several years ago. Back in 2002, in the days following the attacks of September 11, Hashmi had been a student in Professor Theoharis’s class on race. He was articulate and very critical of the ways in which the civil rights of American citizens, especially Muslims, had been curtailed by the Bush administration.

When Theoharis heard that Hashmi had been arrested by the British police because there was a warrant out for him in the US, she was struck by the irony of it all. A part of her former student’s thesis had been about the government’s surveillance and harassment of four or five Muslim groups in the US. Now, he was himself behind bars on suspicion of having aided and abetted terrorism. Less than a year later, when Hashmi was extradited to the US, the FBI revealed that a man who had stayed at the detainee’s apartment in London had supplied “military gear” to Al Qaeda members in Pakistan. Then, Hashmi’s lawyer found out that the items being labeled as “military gear” were socks and rainproof ponchos. The rest of the details of the indictment remain shrouded in mystery. The FBI has revealed nothing more.

I met Jeanne Theoharis recently for lunch in a restaurant in New York’s West Village. She told me that when Hashmi was arrested, the faculty at her College was asked not to talk to the media. But after Hashmi’s extradition, Theoharis told me, she “felt a huge sense of responsibility.” Teaching students is so much about encouraging them to come into their own, to find a voice, and she thought Hashmi had succeeded in doing just that. He had become an activist and a critic of what he thought were unjust policies. Theoharis said, “He was so earnest, so outspoken. My instinct was that there’s no way this is not about politics.”

But it couldn’t have been instinct alone. Athan Theoharis, Jeanne’s father, is the author of a definitive, critical book about the FBI and the ways in which the agency has undermined civil liberties and democratic institutions. Her mother is a social activist. Jeanne Theoharis’s own research is on the civil rights movement in America. She is currently writing a book on Rosa Parks, who, despite the current public image of her as an icon of democracy, had been reviled for decades as a traitor and a communist.

Theoharis responded to Hashmi’s extradition by meeting with his lawyer. She also met and talked with a colleague of hers, Corey Robin, who is the author of a book about the ways in which fear circumscribes our lives and rights. Then, she sent a brief letter (“literally like a condolence card”) to Hashmi’s parents. Hashmi’s old father called Theoharis and broke down and wept on the phone. With this appeal for help, Theoharis began to define a role for herself in what she regarded as a fight for justice.

After several delays, Hashmi’s trial in New York has just been postponed indefinitely. According to Hashmi’s lawyer, the case against his client rests on the testimony of single government informant, Junaid Babar. The informant had stayed for a short while in Hashmi’s apartment in London, at a time when Hashmi was working toward a graduate degree in Political Science. In addition, Babar had used Hashmi’s cellphone to call his associates; he also claims to have received money from Hashmi. Having already pleaded guilty to having been involved in terror plots, his work as an informant is widely seen as an attempt to get a reduction in his 70-year prison sentence.

A few months after his extradition to the US, the conditions of Hashmi’s incarceration underwent a drastic change. He was placed under what is called “special administrative measures.” He was put in solitary confinement; for 23 hours each day he remained in his cell; when taken out of it for an hour, he was allowed to exercise in a cage. He was also under round-the-clock surveillance. He could not participate in group prayer, or communicate with other prisoners, and was denied any access to the media. Family visits were now limited to one family member every two weeks, although even such visits were imperiled because oftentimes, as Hashmi’s parents soon discovered, the meeting could be canceled if the government interpreter had not come. Theoharis believes that the prolonged solitary confinement has already affected Hashmi: in his court appearances, Hashmi has appeared nervous and depressed. Earlier, Theoharis said, Hashmi’s attention “had seemed rock solid” but now “he seems to be retreating into his own head.”

Theoharis also told me that one of the first, more urgent, questions she faced was to come up with a list of books she could send her former student in prison. It was tricky. Which books would not be censored? Theoharis decided to have send books to Hashmi, and among the first titles she chose was Edward Jones’s The Known World because she felt a cover that said “Pulitzer Prize” would make the book less scary to the prison authorities. Among the other titles she sent to prison, without even knowing whether the books were making their way to Hashmi, were Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, and Julie Otsuka’s When the Emperor Was Divine.

The book list was a revelation to me. So far, all I had known about Jeanne Theoharis was that she had been behind an online petition signed by hundreds of academics, including some of the top names at US universities (see Some of the first people to add their names to the petition were African-Americans and others familiar with the systematic denial of civil rights in the 1960s and later. And when during lunch she told me about her book list, I began to see how Theoharis had understood the related nature of oppressions. Toni Morrison’s novel is a lyrical, wonderfully imaginative account of the brutality of slavery. Julie Otsuka’s book is the story of one Japanese family’s internment in an alien enemy camp in the US. I also saw how Theoharis had perhaps never stopped being Hashmi’s teacher. She was offering solace, or strength, to someone who, in the name of American security, was not even allowed to see the evidence against him.

I also saw Theoharis as offering a lesson to her fellow Americans. She was reminding them that President Obama might have expressed a resolve to close Guantánamo, but it is no consolation at all if Guantánamo has just been moved to within a few blocks of the place where Hashmi was once a student learning about civil rights.

UPDATE February 8, 2010

This Monday February 8th will mark the 1,343rd day of Fahad Hashmi’s incarceration and the 843rd day since the implementation of SAMs (Special Administrative Measures) in his case, under which he has been held in pre-trial solitary confinement. As human rights groups and psychiatrists around the world have noted, prolonged solitary confinement constitutes torture and often results in permanent psychological damage. Fahad’s trial is set for late April and our work is now more important than ever. Please join us on Monday night and help draw attention to this gross abuse of civil liberties and human rights. (more info on the case can be found below.)

Monday night’s vigil/performance will include Drama Desk nominee Arian Moayed, the co-founder of the critically-acclaimed Waterwell Theater Company who has worked with theater and film luminaries including Tony Kushner, Spike Lee, Tracy Letts, Moises Kaufman, Naomi Wallace, Jeff Daniels, Tom Fontana, Jo Bonney and Charles Mee.

:: Radio Free Fahad ::

Monday February 8th, 2010 @ 6-7pm

Across from the Metropolitan Correctional Center
150 Park Row and Pearl Street, NYC

Map it:

January 18, 2010

I am pleased to announce that well over a hundred people packed the corner right across from the Metropolitan Correction Center (MCC), New York City, in support of our brother Fahad Hashmi earlier this evening. I would estimate that at least two thirds of the crowd of supporters were non-Muslims. (O’ Muslims, we have got to do better!)
The initiative was organized by the members of Theaters Against War (THAW), comprised of socially committed artists of a variety of stripes – and featured among others, activist journalist Chris Hedges and the anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, who both spoke eloquently and forcefully in defense of Fahad and the better of the “two Americas.”
It is my understanding that THAW has been organizing these vigils in support of Fahad on a weekly basis for several weeks now. As a result of the recent decision of the court to delay the start of Fahad’s trial, the vigils will continue on a bi-weekly basis (still on Mondays) until further notice. For additional info on this initiative and/or its sponsors, go to or .

Fahad Hashmi

Syed Fahad Hashmi

Syed Hashmi, known to his family and friends as Fahad, was born in Karachi, Pakistan in 1980, the second child of Syed Anwar Hashmi and Arifa Hashmi. Fahad immigrated with his family to America when he was three years old. His father said “We knew there would be many opportunities for us here in the United States. We came here to find the American dream.”

The large Hashmi family settled in Flushing, New York and soon developed deep roots throughout the tri-state area. Fahad graduated from Robert F. Wagner High School in 1998 and attended SUNY Stony Brook University. He transferred to Brooklyn College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2003. A devout Muslim, through the years Fahad established a reputation as an activist and advocate. In 2003, Fahad enrolled in London Metropolitan University in England to pursue a master’s degree in international relations, which he received in 2006.

On June 6, 2006, Fahad was arrested in London Heathrow airport by British police based on an American indictment charging him with material support of Al Qaida. He was subsequently held in Belmarsh Prison, Britain’s most notorious jail.

AS some of you may know, our respected brother Fahad’s trial has to start  on Thursday, April 28th 2010 at 500 Pearl St, Manhatton, New York.

So, why does Fahad need YOU?- Fahad and his family have been waiting 3.5 years for this day to begin and how many of us have been aware of our brother’s situation or even bothered to help him or his family and make du’aa for him all those 3.5 years?

– Did you know that Fahad is on a 23-hour solitary-confinement lockdown and 24-hour surveillance including when he showers and goes to the bathroom. He has not been allowed family visits for months. Now, he can see one person for an hour and a half, every other week.

– Did you know that Fahad is permitted to write one letter a week to a single member of his family, but he cannot use more than three pieces of paper per letter. Within his own cell, he is restricted in his movements and he is not allowed to try to talk guards or other inmates?

– Our brother who hasn’t even been trialed yet is forbidden any contact – directly or through his attorneys – with the news media. He can read newspapers, but only those portions approved by his jailers – and not until 30 days after publication. He is forbidden to listen to news radio stations or to watch television news channels.

– Imagine being under a 24-hour electronic monitoring inside and outside of a cell. Fahad is only allowed ONE hour of recreation every day – which is periodically denied – and not given fresh air but must exercise alone inside a cage.No calamity befalls, but with the Leave [i.e. decision and Qadar (Divine Preordainments)] of Allâh, and whosoever believes in Allâh, He guides his heart [to the true Faith with certainty, i.e. what has befallen him was already written for him by Allâh from the Qadar (Divine Preordainments)], and Allâh is the All-Knower of everything.’ [Surah Taghabun] As you make duaa these upcoming days of Dhul Hijjah (the best amongst the days created by Allaah) for forgiveness and Allaah’s (unlimited) Mercy- do not forget to make duaa for Fahad Hashmi (& Dr Aafia Siddiqui, and the many more like them)

“The dua of a Muslim for his brother in his absence (i.e. the person is not present and is not aware that you are making dua for him) is answered. An angel is appointed to be at his side. Every time that he prays for some good for his brother, the angel says: “Aameen. And may the same be granted to you.” (Muslim)


One Day We’ll All Be Terrorists


SYED Fahad Hashmi can tell you about the dark heart of America. He knows that our First Amendment rights have become a joke, that habeas corpus no longer exists and that we torture, not only in black sites such as those at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or at Guantánamo Bay, but also at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Lower Manhattan. Hashmi is a U.S. citizen of Muslim descent imprisoned on two counts of providing and conspiring to provide material support and two counts of making and conspiring to make a contribution of goods or services to al-Qaida. As his case prepares for trial, his plight illustrates that the gravest threat we face is not from Islamic extremists, but the codification of draconian procedures that deny Americans basic civil liberties and due process. Hashmi would be a better person to tell you this, but he is not allowed to speak.

This corruption of our legal system, if history is any guide, will not be reserved by the state for suspected terrorists, or even Muslim Americans. In the coming turmoil and economic collapse, it will be used to silence all who are branded as disruptive or subversive. Hashmi endures what many others, who are not Muslim, will endure later. Radical activists in the environmental, globalization, anti-nuclear, sustainable agriculture and anarchist movements—who are already being placed by the state in special detention facilities with Muslims charged with terrorism—have discovered that his fate is their fate. Courageous groups have organized protests, including vigils outside the Manhattan detention facility. They can be found at or On Martin Luther King Day, this Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. EST, protesters will hold a large vigil in front of the MCC on 150 Park Row in Lower Manhattan to call for a return of our constitutional rights. Join them if you can.

The case against Hashmi, like most of the terrorist cases launched by the Bush administration, is appallingly weak and built on flimsy circumstantial evidence. This may be the reason the state has set up parallel legal and penal codes to railroad those it charges with links to terrorism. If it were a matter of evidence, activists like Hashmi, who is accused of facilitating the delivery of socks to al-Qaida, would probably never be brought to trial.

Hashmi, who if convicted could face up to 70 years in prison, has been held in solitary confinement for more than 2½ years. Special administrative measures, known as SAMs, have been imposed by the attorney general to prevent or severely restrict communication with other prisoners, attorneys, family, the media and people outside the jail. He also is denied access to the news and other reading material. Hashmi is not allowed to attend group prayer. He is subject to 24-hour electronic monitoring and 23-hour lockdown. He must shower and go to the bathroom on camera. He can write one letter a week to a single member of his family, but he cannot use more than three pieces of paper. He has no access to fresh air and must take his one hour of daily recreation in a cage. His “proclivity for violence” is cited as the reason for these measures although he has never been charged or convicted with committing an act of violence.

“My brother was an activist,” Hashmi’s brother, Faisal, told me by phone from his home in Queens. “He spoke out on Muslim issues, especially those dealing with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His arrest and torture have nothing to do with providing ponchos and socks to al-Qaida, as has been charged, but the manipulation of the law to suppress activists and scare the Muslim American community. My brother is an example. His treatment is meant to show Muslims what will happen to them if they speak about the plight of Muslims. We have lost every single motion to preserve my brother’s humanity and remove the special administrative measures. These measures are designed solely to break the psyche of prisoners and terrorize the Muslim community. These measures exemplify the malice towards Muslims at home and the malice towards the millions of Muslims who are considered as non-humans in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The extreme sensory deprivation used on Hashmi is a form of psychological torture, far more effective in breaking and disorienting detainees. It is torture as science. In Germany, the Gestapo broke bones while its successor, the communist East German Stasi, broke souls. We are like the Stasi. We have refined the art of psychological disintegration and drag bewildered suspects into secretive courts when they no longer have the mental and psychological capability to defend themselves.

“Hashmi’s right to a fair trial has been abridged,” said Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “Much of the evidence in the case has been classified under CIPA, and thus Hashmi has not been allowed to review it. The prosecution only recently turned over a significant portion of evidence to the defense. Hashmi may not communicate with the news media, either directly or through his attorneys. The conditions of his detention have impacted his mental state and ability to participate in his own defense.

“The prosecution’s case against Hashmi, an outspoken activist within the Muslim community, abridges his First Amendment rights and threatens the First Amendment rights of others,” Ratner added. “While Hashmi’s political and religious beliefs, speech and associations are constitutionally protected, the government has been given wide latitude by the court to use them as evidence of his frame of mind and, by extension, intent. The material support charges against him depend on criminalization of association. This could have a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of others, particularly in activist and Muslim communities.”

Constitutionally protected statements, beliefs and associations can now become a crime. Dissidents, even those who break no laws, can be stripped of their rights and imprisoned without due process. It is the legal equivalent of preemptive war. The state can detain and prosecute people not for what they have done, or even for what they are planning to do, but for holding religious or political beliefs that the state deems seditious. The first of those targeted have been observant Muslims, but they will not be the last.

“Most of the evidence is classified,” Jeanne Theoharis, an associate professor of political science at Brooklyn College who taught Hashmi, told me, “but Hashmi is not allowed to see it. He is an American citizen. But in America you can now go to trial and all the evidence collected against you cannot be reviewed. You can spend 2½ years in solitary confinement before you are convicted of anything. There has been attention paid to extraordinary rendition, Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib with this false idea that if people are tried in the United States things will be fair. But what allowed Guantánamo to happen was the devolution of the rule of law here at home, and this is not only happening to Hashmi.”

Hashmi was, like so many of those arrested during the Bush years, briefly a poster child in the “war on terror.” He was apprehended in Britain on June 6, 2006, on a U.S. warrant. His arrest was the top story on the CBS and NBC nightly news programs, which used graphics that read “Terror Trail” and “Web of Terror.” He was held for 11 months at Belmarsh Prison in London and then became the first U.S. citizen to be extradited by Britain. The year before his arrest, Hashmi, a graduate of Brooklyn College, had completed his master’s degree in international relations at London Metropolitan University. His case has no more substance than the one against the seven men arrested on suspicion of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower, a case where, even though there were five convictions after two mistrials, an FBI deputy director acknowledged that the plan was more “aspirational rather than operational.” And it mirrors the older case of the Palestinian activist Sami Al-Arian, now under house arrest in Virginia, who has been hounded by the Justice Department although he should legally have been freed. Judge Leonie Brinkema, currently handling the Al-Arian case, in early March, questioned the U.S. attorney’s actions in Al-Arian’s plea agreement saying curtly: “I think there’s something more important here, and that’s the integrity of the Justice Department.”

The case against Hashmi revolves around the testimony of Junaid Babar, also an American citizen. Babar, in early 2004, stayed with Hashmi at his London apartment for two weeks. In his luggage, the government alleges, Babar had raincoats, ponchos and waterproof socks, which Babar later delivered to a member of al-Qaida in south Waziristan, Pakistan. It was alleged that Hashmi allowed Babar to use his cell phone to call conspirators in other terror plots.

“Hashmi grew up here, was well known here, was very outspoken, very charismatic and very political,” said Theoharis. “This is really a message being sent to American Muslims about the cost of being politically active. It is not about delivering alleged socks and ponchos and rain gear. Do you think al-Qaida can’t get socks and ponchos in Pakistan? The government is planning to introduce tapes of Hashmi’s political talks while he was at Brooklyn College at the trial. Why are we willing to let this happen? Is it because they are Muslims, and we think it will not affect us? People who care about First Amendment rights should be terrified. This is one of the crucial civil rights issues of our time. We ignore this at our own peril.”

Babar, who was arrested in 2004 and has pleaded guilty to five counts of material support for al-Qaida, also faces up to 70 years in prison. But he has agreed to serve as a government witness and has already testified for the government in terror trials in Britain and Canada. Babar will receive a reduced sentence for his services, and many speculate he will be set free after the Hashmi trial. Since there is very little evidence to link Hashmi to terrorist activity, the government will rely on Babar to prove intent. This intent will revolve around alleged conversations and statements Hashmi made in Babar’s presence. Hashmi, who was a member of the New York political group Al Muhajiroun as a student at Brooklyn College, has made provocative statements, including calling America “the biggest terrorist in the world,” but Al Muhajiroun is not defined by the government as a terrorist organization. Membership in the group is not illegal. And our complicity in acts of state terror is a historical fact.

There will be more Hashmis, and the Justice Department, planning for future detentions, set up in 2006 a segregated facility, the Communication Management Unit, at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind. Nearly all the inmates transferred to Terre Haute are Muslims. A second facility has been set up at Marion, Ill., where the inmates again are mostly Muslim but also include a sprinkling of animal rights and environmental activists, among them Daniel McGowan, who was charged with two arsons at logging operations in Oregon. His sentence was given “terrorism enhancements” under the Patriot Act. Amnesty International has called the Marion prison facility “inhumane.” All calls and mail—although communication customarily is off-limits to prison officials—are monitored in these two Communication Management Units. Communication among prisoners is required to be only in English. The highest-level terrorists are housed at the Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, known as Supermax, in Florence, Colo., where prisoners have almost no human interaction, physical exercise or mental stimulation, replicating the conditions for most of those held at Guantánamo. If detainees are transferred from Guantánamo to the prison in in Thomson, Ill., they will find little change. They will endure Guantánamo-like conditions in colder weather.

Our descent is the familiar disease of decaying empires. The tyranny we impose on others we finally impose on ourselves. The influx of non-Muslim American activists into these facilities is another ominous development. It presages the continued dismantling of the rule of law, the widening of a system where prisoners are psychologically broken by sensory deprivation, extreme isolation and secretive kangaroo courts where suspects are sentenced on rumors and innuendo and denied the right to view the evidence against them. Dissent is no longer the duty of the engaged citizen but is becoming an act of terrorism. Truthdig

Chris Hedges, whose column is published on Truthdig every Monday, spent two decades as a foreign reporter covering wars in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. He has written nine books, including “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” (2009) and “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” (2003).

Copyright © 2009 Truthdig, L.L.C.

COUNTER PUNCH   February 9, 2009

Another Casualty of the War on Terror

The Nightmarish Case of Fahad Hashmi


During Barack Obama’s inauguration speech, it was striking to hear him declare that “we are a nation of Christians and Muslims”–indicating that both have the right to live and practice their religions in America, free from discrimination.

However, for Arabs and Muslims who have faced racism, religious discrimination, and unjustified arrests and detention under the auspices of “fighting terrorism,” the Obama’s administration’s commitment to the “war on terror” would seem to be in contradiction with that idea.

This contradiction is exemplified in cases like Fahad Hashmi.

Hashmi is a 29-year-old Pakistani man who received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Brooklyn College in 2003 and his master’s degree in international relations from London Metropolitan University in 2006.

In 2004, he allowed an acquaintance, Junaid Babar, to stay at his London apartment for two weeks. While there, Babar kept raincoats and waterproof socks in his luggage, which the U.S. alleges he later gave to a high-ranking member of al-Qaeda.

Simply because of this–raincoats and socks–Hashmi was arrested by British police at London’s Heathrow Airport on June 6, 2006, and charged with providing material support to al-Qaeda. He was not accused of providing money or resources to al-Qaeda, or personally giving anything at all to any member of al-Qaeda, or o being a terrorist himself. Yet he was held in the general prison population of Belmarsh Prison in England for 11 months, and then extradited to the United States, where he has been held in solitary confinement for over a year.

Fahad has been subject to Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), which are designed to prevent crimes from being planned from within prisons. Although he is not charged with any acts of violence, nor has he been accused of attempting to contact any terrorists while in prison, he has been forced to endure a 23-hour-a-day lockdown; is only allowed one visit from an immediate family member per week, with no physical contact permitted; and is not allowed contact with anyone else other than his lawyer and prison officials.

The SAMs also prohibit Fahad’s family members from passing any messages between him and his friends, restrict what reading material he is permitted to see, and dictate that he may not listen to or watch the news or participate in group prayer.

At a hearing on January 23, a judge heard a motion to improve the conditions of Fahad’s imprisonment by increasing his visitation rights to two hours per week, allowing him to participate in communal prayer, and granting him access to exercise and recreation facilities.

Negotiations about visitation rights are ongoing, but the other requests were denied since the court had already ruled that the government’s “security concerns” were justified, and the SAMs have already been extended for a second year.

During this hearing, the prosecution claimed that Fahad was practicing shadow-boxing and martial arts in his cell, and that, when asked by a guard what he was doing, Fahad replied, “Practicing for you.” Prosecutors said that when he was asked to stop, he refused. This example was used to demonstrate that Fahad is, in fact, a “security risk.”

However, Fahad says that he was never told to stop, and that he didn’t say that he was practicing to attack the guards–but instead, that the guards taunted him by asking if he was practicing for them. There are videotapes of this incident that could easily be used to clarify what really happened, but the tapes are not being made available to the court.

Around 40 supporters attended Fahad’s latest hearing, including members of the Brooklyn College Islamic Society, the Muslim Justice Initiative/Free Fahad Campaign, Fahad’s family and friends, and political activists.

Given the court’s intransigence in spite of the weak evidence against Fahad and strong support for him, it is clear that we must raise the profile of this case and amplify our outrage. Even while we celebrate victories like the closing of the U.S. prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, it is crucial that we fight the domestic repercussions of the “war on terror,” which are still ongoing.

Taking a stand against the profiling of Arabs and Muslims is more urgent than ever, and justice for Fahad Hashmi is a fight we should be able to win.

Doug Singsen contributed to this article.

Alana Smith writes for the Socialist Worker.

The Right to a Fair Defense Cannot Be Controversial: The Case of Fahad Hashmi

Fahad Hashmi’s case characterizes overreaching powers that came about due to War on Terror

By Udai Malhotra

We must consider cases such as Fahad Hashmi’s, which illustrates the overreaching powers that have come to characterize the Federal Government, the intelligence community, and the American justice system through the War on Terror.

In the eight years since President Bush began the War on Terror, a number of Muslim charities, human rights groups, and community based organizations have been under intense scrutiny and surveillance by the US Federal Government. Muslim Americans have had their phones tapped, their financial assets frozen, and their places of worship infiltrated. The American intelligence community has been slowly bringing home many of the intelligence gathering tactics used abroad to now monitor and detain its own citizens. In this climate of profiling, and eroding civil liberties at home, we must consider cases such as the one of the American, Syed Fahad Hashmi, which illustrates the overreaching powers that have come to characterize the Federal Government, the intelligence community, and the American justice system through the War on Terror.

The Global War on Terror is conducted mainly through intelligence gathering as opposed to evidence gathering. For intelligence gathering agencies, association with blacklisted individuals is all that is needed to raise a red flag and invite the scrutiny of the state. Independent journalist Petra Barscieowitz comments in “The Intelligence Factory: How America Makes It’s Enemies Dissapear” in Harper’s Magazine, “What most of us understand as human relationships, infinitely varied and poignant with ambiguity, criminal investigators understand simply as a series of associations.” This approach is problematic. Coupled with the coercive tactics used in the interrogation of detainees, inaccurate intelligence becomes actionable, and individuals may be punished simply for their association . Imposing guilt by association, and doling out punishment for the actions of others does not provide any guidance about what kinds of actions are prohibited by the government and it punishes innocent assistance to, or association with, blacklisted individuals. The prosecution of individuals for their association is a tactic that has been used by states to suppress dissent and criticism.

Fahad Hashmi emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1983 from Karachi, Pakistan, at the age of three. He grew up in the vibrant and diverse community of Flushing, Queens and studied Political Science at Brooklyn College. On campus, he was outspoken in his views of American foreign policy and the oppression of Muslims post 9-11. In 2002, he was mentioned in a Time Magazine article as a student activist. The article quoted him saying, “America is directly involved in exterminating Muslims,” and that “America is the biggest terrorist in the world.” Jeanne Theoharis, one of Fahad’s professors at Brooklyn College, and a campaigner for his release has stated that Fahad wrote his senior seminar paper on the treatment of Muslim groups within the United States and the violations of civil rights taking place.

In 2003, Fahad moved to London to pursue a Masters degree in International Relations from London’s Metropolitan University, which he completed in 2005. There he came in contact with an individual blacklisted by the American government, Junaid Babar, an acquaintance from New York, who stayed in his London apartment for two weeks. Babar has since been convicted of providing material support to Al Qaeda and will be a witness against Fahad in his future trial.

On June 6, 2006, Fahad was arrested by British Police at Heathrow Airport while preparing to board a plane to Pakistan. He pleaded not guilty to charges in the U.S. of “providing material support to Al-Qaeda” and was held for eleven months in Britain’s Belmarsh prison as part of the regular prison population while he fought his extradition. On May 25, 2007, under pressure from the American government, he was extradited from the U.K. Upon his arrival in the US, Fahad was placed in pre-trial solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Lower Manhattan, where he has remained for almost three years. Subject to Special Administrative Measures (SAM’s), he is kept in his cell for 23 hours a day and allowed a single hour in a cage for recreation. He is currently under extreme mobility restrictions and remains under constant video surveillance. He may not interact with anyone other than prison officials, his lawyers, and approved members of his family, and is not allowed to speak out loud, or gesture, under threat of having even more restraints placed on him. Solitary confinement to a lesser extent than what has been imposed is considered torture as permany international standards, and Fahad has been kept in this extreme situation for almost three years now. Over 30 appeals have been made by his lawyers pertaining to his treatment under SAM’s with each one thus far being denied.

Fahad’s charge of providing “material support” to Al Qaeda, does not accuse him of giving money, weapons, or information to the terrorist organization as originally reported. Rather, he is being accused of allowing an acquaintance, Junaid Babar, to stay in his home in London while carrying raincoats, ponchos, and waterproof socks in his suitcase. According to the government, these items were later delivered by Babar to a third ranking member of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. During his stay, the government also alleged that Fahad allowed Babar to use his cell phone to speak to other individuals associated with terrorist groups. As a cooperating witness, Babar has already been convicted of five counts of material support himself and faces 70 years in prison. The case built against Fahad will be based upon the testimony of Babar who has already been used by the government to testify in numerous other terrorism related cases. Chris Hedges, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist writes in One Day We’ll All Be Terrorists, “Babar will receive a reduced sentence for his services, and many speculate he will be set free after the Hashmi trial”. It is expected that the US government will also be introducing tapes showcasing Fahad’s political and activist background to demonstrate intent. The implication being that there is no real evidence connecting Fahad to terrorism other than his constitutionally protected religious and dissident political speech.

Under U.S. Law, Fahad is currently presumed innocent while in custody. He has no criminal record or history of violence and there is no precedent for the SAM’s in place against him. SAM’s were first introduced under President Clinton and were meant to be used to disable and severely limit ones contact with the outside world. They were created specifically for dealing with the most violent and unrestrainable of criminals like mob leaders whose criminal activity and leadership could not be halted while present in the regular prison population. Fahad’s “proclivity for violence”, cited to justify such harsh restrictions placed on him are based only upon his religious and political beliefs as he has no past history of violence. SAM’s were expanded in wake of 9/11, with the regulations loosened, and the standards for renewal relaxed. They have allowed for Fahad to be kept in a state of administrative limbo, isolated and flagrantly denied his right to a speedy trial, to confront the evidence against him, and to be given the opportunity to defend himself. Apart from the restraints on Fahad as part of SAM’s, there are also numerous limitations on his lawyers. They are restricted in what they can and cannot say to the media about their contact with him, and have had to go through extensive and time consuming background checks to be given the required clearance to see the classified “secret evidence” against him. They are however barred from discussing this evidence with Fahad himself or the media. A full cover story in the Village Voice by Nat Hentoff in 2007 regarded Hashmi’s case as a “Bush “dark side” legacy”. A year into Obama’s presidency we have seen Attorney General Holder reissue Fahad’s SAM’s in November of 2009.

Regardless of Fahad’s ultimate guilt or innocence – something only a fair trial can establish – placing someone in prolonged solitary confinement with such extreme restrictions before being given a chance to defend themselves is deplorable irrespective of the charges, and amounts to torture. For activists rallying around this case, it is an attempt to salvage some justice that has so far uniformly been denied. Fahad’s treatment should be of concern to all Americans who value their right to political, religious speech, and the inalienable rights guaranteed under the constitution. The right to a fair defense is beyond controversy, and community organizations have been mobilizing around Fahad’s case with Theaters Against War holding regular vigils outside the Metropolitan Detention Center at 500 Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan. More information about Fahad’s case can be found at Fahad’s trial is presently set to begin on April 28th , 2010 in the courtroom of Judge Loretta Preska.

COUNTER PUNCH January 5, 2010

The Confinement of Hashmi

The Law is Lost


I had just finished reading the uncensored edition of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s book, In The First Circle (Harper Perennial, 2009), when I came across Chris Hedges article, ”One Day We’ll All Be Terrorists” (Truthdig, Dec. 28, 2009). In Hedges’ description of the U.S. government’s treatment of American citizen Syed Fahad Hashmi, I recognized the Stalinist legal system as portrayed by Solzhenitsyn.

Hashmi has been held in solitary confinement going on three years. Guantanamo’s practices have migrated to the Metropolitan Correction Center in Manhattan where Hashmi is held in the Special Housing Unit. His access to attorneys, family, and other prisoners is prevented or severely curtailed. He must clean himself and use toilet facilities on camera. He is let out of solitary for one hour every 24 hours to exercise in a cage.

Hashmi is a U.S. citizen but his government has violated every right guaranteed to him by the Constitution. The U.S. government, in violation of U.S. law, is also subjecting Hashmi to psychological torture known as extreme sensory deprivation. The bogus ”evidence” against him is classified and denied to him. Like Joseph K. in Kafka’s The Trial, Hashmi is under arrest on secret evidence. As the case against him is unknown or non-existent, defense is impossible.

Hashmi’s rights have been abrogated by his government with the allegation that he is a potential terrorist or perhaps just a terrorist sympathizer. Another American citizen, Junaid Babar stayed with Hashmi for two weeks and allegedly delivered ponchos and socks to al-Qaida in Pakistan. Allegedly Babar used Hashmi’s cell phone to reach others aiding terrorists. The U.S. government says that this suffices to implicate Hashmi in Babar’s activities.

Babar made a plea bargain to five counts of ”material support” for terrorism, but is working off his prison sentence by testifying as a government witness in other terror trials, including in Canada and the U.K., and as the U.S. government’s only evidence against Hashmi.

Hashmi’s real offense is that he is a Muslim activist defending Muslim civil liberties and making provocative statements about the U.S. As Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, has pointed out, federal courts have given the U.S. government wide latitude to use Hashmi’s exercise of his constitutionally protected rights to free speech and association as evidence of a terrorist frame of mind and, thereby, of intent to commit terrorism.

Brooklyn College professor Jeanne Theoharis warns us that an American citizen can now be tried on secret evidence. ”You can spend years in solitary confinement before you are convicted of anything. There has been attention paid to extraordinary rendition, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib with this false idea that if people are tried in the United States things will be fair. But what allowed Guantanamo to happen was the devolution of the rule of law here at home, and this is not only happening to Hashmi.”

Indeed, Hedges reports that ”radical activists in the environmental, (anti)-globalization, anti-nuclear, sustainable agriculture and anarchist movements are already being placed by the state in special detention facilities with Muslims charged with terrorism.” Hedges warns: ”This corruption of our legal system will not be reserved by the state for suspected terrorists or even Muslim Americans. In the coming turmoil and economic collapse, it will be used to silence all who are branded as disruptive or subversive. Hashmi endures what many others, who are not Muslim, will endure later.”

The silence of bar associations and law schools indicates an astounding insouciance to Thomas Paine’s warning: ”He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” Some of my Republican and conservative acquaintances are even gleeful that, finally, we are going to get tough and deal forcibly with ”these people.” They naively believe that they themselves will remain safe when law ceases to be a shield of the people and becomes a weapon in the hands of government.

In ”A Man For All Seasons,” Sir Thomas More cautions against cutting the law down in order to chase after devils, for with the law cut down, where do we stand when the devil turns on us?

Clearly, these fundamental questions are of no concern to the U.S. Department of Justice (sic), to Congress or the White House, to the ”mainstream media,” to the American people, or even to very much of the federal judiciary.

Glenn Greenwald pointed out in Salon (Dec. 4, 2009) that the Convention Against Torture, championed and signed by President Ronald Reagan and ratified by the U.S. Senate, states: ”Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency may be invoked as a justification of torture. Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offenses under its criminal law.”

Two decades later the U.S. government tortures at will. Justice (sic) Department officials write memos authorizing torture despite the ratified Convention Against Torture, U.S. law, and the Geneva Conventions. The Pew Poll reports that 67 percent of Republicans and 47 percent of Democrats support the use of torture.

And Americans think they have freedom and democracy and live under the protection of the rule of law.

The law is lost, and with it American liberty.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. This fall CounterPunch/AK Press will publish Robert’s War of the Worlds: How the Economy Was Lost. He can be reached at:

Here is a poem written by Ammar AlShukry and dedicated to Fahad Hashmi titled,

My Brother

12 miles away in a cell is my brother
24 hour confined hell for my brother
They try to separate me with fear from my brother
But things arent as they appear with my brother
They call him a terrorist, I call him my brother
Tell me why they had to go take my brother
Because he says his Lord is Allah and no other?
Was it because he cared enough to teach did my brother
Or was it the hearts he used to reach did my brother
Was it that he was different from the crowd was my brother
Was it that he is a Muslim that is proud is my brother
They say that he’s heartless, I say- my brother?
When they have him sitting in darkness, my brother
I ask Allah to pour out on him patience, my brother
3 years without trial he’s waited, my brother

12 miles away in a cell is my brother
Sensory deprived hell for my brother
But I won’t allow them to defeat my brother
As long as I can stand on my feet for my brother
As long as I can stand up and speak for my brother
I will not be afraid nor weak for my brother
I will not sit on the fence for my brother
I will stand up in defense for my brother

No effort too small or immense for my brother
I have no doubt they will clear my brother
And Allah will dry a mothers tears for my brother
But what I want to say here for my brother
If you’re not willing to stand for your brother
Then this will only expand to your brothers
If you choose to forget or ignore my brother
I won’t beg and I won’t implore for my brother
I’ve seen the light emanate from the core of my brother
So It doesn’t matter what they have in store for my brother
For Allah is my Lord… and He’s the Lord of my brother

Leave a Reply

Log in | Designed, Developed and Hosted by: BIZIBIZI INC.