Let our name not be ‘Mudd’
Awakened in the middle of the night, a Maryland doctor is startled to find two men at his front door. One has a broken leg and needs immediate attention. Letting them in, he sets the leg and allows them to stay the night. The following morning, the doctor travels to town, only to learn that the president has been shot. In the hysterical witch hunt that follows, Dr. Samuel Mudd is arrested, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. The man whose leg he set was John Wilkes Booth. In a 2005 Newsweek article, Mudd is referred to as a “folk hero who was wronged by the government.” Most historians agree.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, a new search began for enemies of the United States. In 2006, Syed “Fahad” Hashmi, a 26-year-old American citizen and Brooklyn College graduate who had earned his masters degree in International Relations at London Metropolitan University only a month earlier, was arrested boarding a plane in London and charged with a number of crimes related to providing “material support” to a terrorist organization.
The American warrant for Fahad’s arrest and extradition was based on the testimony of Mohammed Junaid Babar, a one-time classmate who had been recently sentenced to 70 years in prison. Agreeing to cooperate to reduce his own sentence, Babar has implicated at least eight acquaintances from England, Canada, and America – including Fahad Hashmi. Today, Fahad sits in Manhattan’s downtown federal Corrections Center, where for the past two and a half years, he has had to endure 23-hour solitary confinement.
The United States Government has never alleged that Fahad is or ever has been a member of al-Qaeda or has ever had any involvement in terrorist operations. Instead, the Government states that Fahad let Junaid stay with him while the latter was en route to Pakistan. The prosecution argues that this act is tantamount to providing “material support” to a terrorist organization because Junaid was carrying rain gear in his luggage to give to an al-Qaeda official.
Given the lack of evidence against Fahad, the prosecution plans to buttress its case by establishing alleged “criminal intent” through statements he made criticizing the so-called “War on Terror,” and his membership in a Muslim student group while attending Brooklyn College. Such statements and associations, however, must be constitutionally protected.
In fact, a “Statement of Concern” regarding Fahad’s constitutional rights has been signed in his support by more than 500 notable academics, writers, and intellectuals, including Henry Louis Gates Jr., Noam Chomsky, Angela Davis, and Eric Foner. A rapidly growing community of supporters has rallied around his cause, as well, speaking out in the media, in the courtroom, and in vigils outside the federal facility where Fahad continues to be held in isolation.
Under Special Administrative Measures, Fahad cannot use the telephone, receive letters, talk to other prisoners, exercise in fresh air, attend religious services, contact the news media through mail or his lawyer, or read a newspaper unless thirty days old and censored by jail officials. He can write only one three-page letter per week to a family member, and even his family visits have been recently denied by Judge Loretta Preska, who has stated that these measures are “administrative rather than punitive.”
Also problematic, Fahad has been hamstrung in his efforts to build a viable defense. Restrictions have been placed on his lawyer from discussing some of the prosecution’s evidence with Fahad himself because it is “classified.” In addition to the due process concerns, the excessive time for the defense to get security clearance has left Fahad sitting alone in prison, deprived of his freedom for more than 2 ½ years, in a legal Catch 22.
Fahad’s trial will commence before Judge Preska on Wednesday, April 28th, at the United States Federal Courthouse for the Southern District of New York.
America has often learned too late from past injustices of ‘guilt by association’—be it Samuel Mudd or Ethel and Julius Rosenberg or the victims of McCarthyism. To stand up for justice in our present and for our future, come out to the courthouse on April 28th—and wear orange. Far more than one man’s life is at stake.
— Cyrus McGoldrick
Cyrus McGoldrick is a student at Columbia University and a Civil Rights Intern at CAIR-NY. For more details on the case, the vigils, and ways to help, please visit www.FreeFahad.com
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