Tag Archives: Islam

No Separate Justice: Advocates & Families Impacted by the “War on Terror” Launch New Campaign Challenging Prosecutorial Overreach & Unjust Incarceration

No Separate Justice: Advocates & Families Impacted by the “War on Terror” Launch New Campaign Challenging Prosecutorial Overreach & Unjust Incarceration

[NEW YORK, NY]   On January 7, 2014, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Educators for Civil Liberties, CUNY School of Law’s Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) Project, and Amnesty International USA will host a panel discussion to launch  “No Separate Justice: A Post-9/11 Domestic Human Rights Campaign.” This new campaign aims to shed light on and end a pattern of human rights and civil liberties abuses in “War on Terror” cases in the criminal justice system.

A focal point of this new effort will be monthly vigils held outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in lower Manhattan, a federal detention center where people accused of terrorism-related offenses have been held in solitary confinement for years, even before they have been tried.

The panel will include discussion of the case of Syed Fahad Hashmi, who is currently serving a 15-year sentence at the federal “supermax” prison in Colorado on material support charges, after three years of pre-trial solitary confinement and Special Administrative Measures at the MCC in New York. It will highlight efforts by the Center for Constitutional Rights and allies to challenge Fahad’s inhumane conditions of confinement, and show how Fahad’s treatment is part of a pattern of rights violations in other “War on Terror” cases, based on extensive research into terrorism prosecutions. Family members of other federal terrorism prisoners will also participate on the panel.

This January 7 campaign-launch event dovetails with a year-long series, “America After 9/11” – a collaboration between The Nation and Educators for Civil Liberties – which features monthly articles examining facets of the domestic “War on Terror.”

SPEAKERS WILL INCLUDE

 


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Liliana Segura
Specializing in the prison industrial complex and harsh sentencing Liliana is a former editor at The Nation magazine and is currently a founding partner at Glenn Greenwald’s new public service journalism venture, First Look.

 


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Pardiss Kebriaei
Pardiss is a Senior Staff Attorney at the Center Constitutional Rights, which she joined in 2007. Her work focuses on challenging government abuses post-9/11, including in the areas of “targeted killing“ and unjust detentions at Guantanamo and in the federal system. Pardiss represents Fahad Hashmi.


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Tamer Mehanna

Tamer’s brother, Tarek Mehanna, was convicted under broad allegations of “material support to terrorists” for 1st amendment protected activities, and is currently imprisoned at the Federal Communications Management Unit in Terre Haute, IN.


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Sonali Sadequee

Sonali’s brother, Ehsanul “Shifa” Sadequee, was held for three years in pre-trial solitary confinement while charged under the “material support” statute and is currently incarcerated at the Federal Communications Management Unit in Terre Haute, IN. As a member of the Sadequee family and Free Shifa Campaign, Sonali organizes and speaks publicly to expose the inherent injustices of the War on Terror and the prison complex.


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Sarah Khasawinah

Sarah is a PhD candidate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is a friend of the Abu-Ali family and will be speaking on behalf of Ahmed Abu-Ali (sentenced to life in prison based on a confession he maintains was coerced through torture while in a Saudi prison). Since 2005 Ahmed has been in held in solitary confinement. He is currently at the federal “supermax” prison in Florence, CO.


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Tarek Ismail

As a fellow at Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute Tarek develops research and policy at the intersection of human rights and U.S. counterterrorism policies, with a particular focus on issues affecting Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities in the United States, including racial profiling, selective prosecution, and the use of informants and sting operations.


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Faisal Hashmi

Co-founder of the Muslim Justice Initiative. Faisal’s brother, Fahad, was accused of providing material support to Al-Qaeda. He is currently being held in solitary confinement at the Federal “Supermax” Prison, ADX-Florence, Colorado.


WHAT: Panel Discussion & Launch Event
WHEN: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 | 7:00pm-9:00pm
WHERE: Judson Memorial Church | 55 Washington Square South, New York 10012
INFO: Facebook RSVP | media RSVP andy@sparrowmedia.net

To arrange an interview with any of the speakers & presenters please email or text Andy Stepanian at andy@sparrowmedia.net or 631.291.3010

In Search of Prisoner 650, The Story of Aafia Siddiqui: A Free Film Screening & Press Conference at NYC’s Diversity Plaza

In Search of Prisoner 650, The Story of Aafia Siddiqui: A Free Film Screening & Press Conference at NYC’s Diversity Plaza

[NEW YORK, NY]  As the United Nations convenes for its annual general meeting in New York this September, the timing coincides with the anniversary of the 86-year-long prison sentence handed to Dr. Aafia Siddiqui by Richard Berman on September 23, 2010.  A ruling viewed by many international activists as a black eye for the UN’s Human Rights Charter.

This year, to mark the 3rd anniversary of Siddiqui’s sentencing, civic and human rights groups are staging a press conference and free screening of the documentary portrait of Siddiqui, ‘Prisoner 650’ by Yvonne Ridley (details posted below).  Taking place this evening, Monday September 23, from 7:30-10pm the screening & presser hopes to reveal illuminating new evidence in the same city where the UN meets to champion Human Rights and where Aafia was prosecuted.


For more than a year, International Justice Network has urged the Government of Pakistan to demand the return of this “daughter of the nation” to her family in Pakistan. Now, more than ever, her fate rests in the Pakistani Government’s hands.  The IJN’s report, Aafia Siddiqui: Just the Facts, reveals new evidence contradicting official statements from the governments of both Pakistan and the United States that Dr. Siddiqui was not detained in their custody prior to her arrest in Ghazni, Afghanistan in July of 2008. IJN has obtained a secret audio recording of a senior Pakistani official who admits he was personally involved in the arrest of Dr. Siddiqui and her children in 2003. This account is corroborated by substantial documentary evidence and witness testimony, which all points to the same conclusion—that Dr. Siddiqui and her three children were initially arrested in March 2003 with the knowledge and cooperation of local authorities in Karachi, Pakistan, and subsequently interrogated by Pakistani military intelligence (ISI) as well as U.S. intelligence agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Regardless of whether any of the allegations against Dr. Siddiqui are true, or whether other grounds for her repatriation may exist, her return to Pakistan should be expedited by both goernments on humanitarian grounds. Her mental and physical health has severely declined, and continues to deteriorate every day that she remains imprisoned. IJN urges both governments to take immediate action to bring Dr. Aafia Siddiqui home.

More broadly, there can be little doubt that Dr. Siddiqui’s repatriation to Pakistan from the United States would do a great deal to repair some of the damage done to the diplomatic relationship between the two nations. Until then, the International Justice Network will continue to expose the truth and seek justice for Dr. Siddiqui and the thousands of other prisoners who have been imprisoned as part of the U.S. government’s “global war on terror.”

SPEAKERS WILL INCLUDE:

Sara Flounders,  International Action Network
Mauri Saalakhan,  Peace thru Justice Foundation
Steve Downs,  National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms
Fahd Ahmed,  Desis Rising Up and Moving


WHEN:
Monday September 23, 2013, 7:30-10pm
WHERE: Diversity Plaza, Jackson Heights, Queens NY
FOR MORE INFO: Contact justicebythepen@gmail.com

Intersections Between the ‘War on Crime’ & ‘War on Terror’: A Town Hall Discussion on Confronting Islamophobia & Repression

Intersections Between the ‘War on Crime’ & ‘War on Terror’: A Town Hall Discussion on Confronting Islamophobia & Repression

[NEW YORK, NY] The Campaign to End the New Jim Crow, in partnership with NCPCF, CAIR, DRUM NYC, The Sparrow Project and Justice by the Pen will present a historic “town hall” style discussion on state repression, the prison industrial complex, and the war on terror, This Thursday April 18th, at Riverside Church.  Constance Malcom (Mother of Ramarley Graham) and Yusef Salaam (wrongfully charged in the Central Park Jogger case) will join a dozen presenters —each with unique stories of imprisonment, entrapment, or experiences with clients who are currently imprisoned at facilities like Guantanamo Bay— and field questions from the community and press in an open space format.

The US’ “War on Drugs” and “War on Terror” have produced a parallel system of state violence and social control, manifested through unjust prosecutions and the mass incarceration of people of color. Join us on April 18th from 6:30-8:30pm for a historic town hall discussion wherein we will hear first-hand stories from former prisoners, family members, lawyers, intellectuals, historians and activists about excessive  sentences, discriminatory policing, suppression of political dissent, and mass incarceration.

SPEAKERS WILL INCLUDE

Constance Malcom
Mother of the late Ramarley Graham. In February 2012, Graham was slain by NYPD officers while unarmed in his grandmother’s Bronx home.

Jazz Hayden
Community activist & founding member of the Campaign to End The New Jim Crow.

Yusef Salaam
Wrongfully convicted in the Central Park jogger case. Yusef sits on the board of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, the advisory board for the Learn My History Foundation & Inspired People United for Children.

Shaheena Parveen
Mother of Matin Siraj, who was entrapped & charged as a terrorist in a fabricated NYPD plot to destroy NYC landmarks.

Ramzi Kassem
Lawyer representing multiple detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Bagram Airforce Base, & other US “Black Sites” & a supervisor of Creating Law  Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) project at CUNY.

Amir Varick
Community Activist sentenced to 25 years to life for a non violent drug offense under the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Co-founder of People Assisting Positive Actions.

Faisal Hashmi
Co-founder of the Muslim Justice Initiative. Faisal’s brother, Fahad, was accused of providing material support to Al-Qaeda.  He is currently being held in solitary confinement at the Federal “Supermax” Prison, ADX-Florence, Colorado.

Sohail Daulatzai
Author of “Black Star, Crescent Moon” & Associate Professor of Film & Media Studies & African American Studies at the UC Irvine.

Noor Elashi
Writer, organic baker, activist & daughter of Holy Land Five political prisoner, Ghassan Elashi.

Andy Stepanian
Cofounder of The Sparrow Project.  Convicted as a terrorist in 2006 for his animal rights activism & served the last 6 months of a 36-month prison sentence in a Federal Communications Management Unit (CMU).

Alicia McWilliams
Activist & Aunt of Newburgh 4 defendant, David Williams.

Fahd Ahmed
Legal & Policy Director of Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), NYC.

Steve Downs
Executive Director of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms and lawyer in the ‘US vs. Yassin Aref’ case.

WHAT: Town Hall Discussion
WHEN: Thursday, April 18, 2013 |  6:30pm-8:30pm
WHERE: Riverside Church Assembly Hall | 490 Riverside Drive, New York, New York 10027
INFO:  Facebook RSVP | andy@sparrowmedia.net

To arrange an interview with any of the speakers & presenters please email or text Andy Stepanian at andy@sparrowmedia.net or 631.291.3010

Echoes of Korematsu: The Holy Land Five Case by Noor Elashi

Echoes of Korematsu: The Holy Land Five Case by Noor Elashi

As we approach the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and my father remains incarcerated in a modern-day internment camp, the time in which we live begins to feel less like 2011 and more like 1942. But this week could determine whether today’s justice system is capable of rewriting the sad chapters of our history. I say this week because on Thursday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the long-awaited oral arguments in the Holy Land Foundation case, involving what was once our country’s largest Muslim charitable organization.

Meet my father, Ghassan Elashi. The co-founder of the HLF. Inmate number 29687-177, sentenced to 65 years in prison for his charity work in Palestine. He is an American citizen from Gaza City, who before his imprisonment, took part in the immigration rally in Downtown Dallas, joining the half a million people wearing white, chanting ¡Si, se puede! The prison walls have not hindered his voice, as he writes to me, heartbroken about the homes destroyed during the earthquake in Haiti, the young protesters killed indiscriminately in Syria, the children lost to the famine in Somalia. Most frequently, he writes to me about the Japanese-American internment.

Now meet Fred T. Korematsu, who after Peal Harbor was among the 120,000 Japanese-Americans ordered to live in internment camps. This was in 1942, when President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the military detainment of Japanese-Americans to ten concentration camps during World War II. Mr. Korematsu defied orders to be interned, because he viewed the forced removal as unconstitutional. So on May 30, 1942, Mr. Korematsu was arrested. His case was argued all the way to the Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled against him, stating that his jailing was justified due to military necessity.

Nearly forty years later, in 1983, Mr. Korematsu’s case was reopened, and on Nov. 10, 1983, the conviction was overturned. Judge Marilyn Hall Patel notably said, “It stands as a caution that, in times of international hostility and antagonisms, our institutions, legislative, executive and judicial, must be prepared to exercise their authority to protect all citizens from the petty fears and prejudices that are so easily aroused.”

Fast-forward six years. It’s already 1989, when my father co-finds the HLF, which becomes a prominent American Muslim charity that provides relief—through clothes, food, blankets and medicine—to Palestinians and other populations in desperate need. Then, in 1996, President Clinton signs the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, giving birth to the Material Support Statute, a law that in time would come under fire by civil libertarians for profiling and targeting Arab and Muslim Americans.

Two years later, in 1998, Clinton awards Mr. Korematsu with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest citizen honor, condemning Mr. Korematsu’s persecution as a shameful moment in our history.Three years later, the towers fall. And President Bush declares a “War on Terror.”

The HLF case was tried in 2007, lasting three months, and after 19 days of deliberations, the jury deadlocked on most counts. The judge declared a mistrial and the case was tried the following year.In 2001, President Bush signs the Patriot Act, which strengthens the Material Support Statue. The law’s language is so vague that it gives prosecutors the authority to argue that humanitarian aid to designated terrorist organizations could be indirect, and therefore, a crime.

In my father’s case, he is charged with conspiring to give Material Support in the form of humanitarian aid to Palestinian distribution centers called zakat committees. Prosecutors admit the zakat committees on the indictment were not designated terrorist groups, but according to the indictment released in 2004, these zakat committees are “controlled by” or act “on behalf of” Hamas, which was designated in 1995. Their theory is that by providing charity to zakat committees, the HLF helped Hamas win the “hearts and minds” of the Palestinian people.

In 2008, after essentially the same arguments, the retrial ended with the jury returning all guilty verdicts, and in 2009, my father was sentenced to 65 years in prison, for essentially giving humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

In 2010, my father was transferred to a “Communications Management Unit” in Marion, Illinois—the aforementioned modern-day internment camp. The CMU received the nickname “Guantanamo North” by National Public Radio since two-thirds of its inmates are Middle Eastern or Muslim. The purpose of this prison—which has another branch in Terre Haute, Indiana—is to closely monitor inmates and limit their communications with their families, attorneys and the media. Thus, I only get to hear my father’s voice once every two weeks, for fifteen minutes. And our visitations take place behind an obtrusive Plexiglass wall.

My father and his co-defendants—now called the Holy Land Five—are in the final stages of the appeal as the oral arguments approach on Thursday. In the Fifth Circuit Court in New Orleans, defense attorneys will urge the panel of three justices to reverse the HLF convictions based on errors that took place in the trial process.

According to the appellate brief, there’s a major fact that undermines the prosecution’s claim that Hamas controlled the zakat committees: “The United States Agency for International Development—which had strict instructions not to deal with Hamas—provided funds over many years to zakat committees named in the indictment, including the Jenin, Nablus, and Qalqilia committees,” writes my father’s attorney, John Cline. He continues stating that in 2004, upon the release of the HLF indictment, “USAID provided $47,000 to the Qalqilia zakat committee.”  Furthermore, defense attorneys will argue that the district court:

a) Violated the right to due process by allowing a key witness to testify without providing his real name, thereby abusing my father’s right to confront his witness. They are referring to an Israeli intelligence officer who became the first person in U.S. history permitted to testify as an expert witness using a pseudonym.

b) Abused its discretion by allowing “inflammatory evidence of little or no probative value,” which included multiple scenes of suicide bombings.

c) Deviated from the sentencing guidelines when they sentenced my father to 65 years.

When putting the lawyerly language aside, human rights attorneys have deemed the HLF case as purely political, perpetrated by the Bush administration. Likewise, the decision to intern Japanese-Americans was based on “race prejudice, war hysteria and failure of political leadership,” according to a 1982 report by the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians.

I can only hope that my father’s vindication won’t take 40 years as it did for Mr. Korematsu. Let us learn from our old wrongs.

Noor Elashi is a writer based in New York City. She holds a Creative Writing MFA from The New School.  This op-ed was inspired by a forward written by Karen Korematsu in the upcoming book, “Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post-9/11 Injustice,” which includes a chapter about Noor’s father. You can purchase a copy from McSweenys HERE

Echoes of Korematsu; The Holy Land Five Case by Noor Elashi was originally published on Counterpunch 



Unity Production’s Creative Video Response to Islamophobia

From Unity Productions comes a powerful testimonial of the 1.8 million Muslim Americans who are as “every-day” as the rest of us. All cliches aside, they’re our doctors, our police, our teachers, and our first responders. To paint this diverse constituency of millions with a broad brush of prejudice because of the actions of a dozen or so zealots, is not only to do so ignorantly, but also does our democracy as a whole a great disservice

Despite all the measures this country has taken to further freedoms of expression we continue to live in a time of religious intolerance. Though some people’s anger is not completely misplaced, especially in cases where selective applications of religion further sexism, racism, homophobia, speciesism and other actions that directly infringe upon the rights of others, these legitimate grievances should never justify blindly ignorant or hateful actions. Through respectful discourse we should always challenge repressive elements of any social group, and its even ok if people feel offended while they sort things out, but when people cherry-pick negative attributes from a specific religion and then proceed to scapegoat that religion as a predicate for all the world’s problems we begin to traverse down a slippery slope of bigotry and xenophobia that can only end in disaster. Words do have power, especially in timultuous times. One need not look further then the recent attacks in Norway to see the vulgar fruits of seeds planted by hate-mongering bloggers and far-right pundits.

We live in a media-driven culture with an increasingly homogenized narrative. One that habitually trumps sensational lead-lines while passing on surrounding factual foundations because they are less inflammatory or take too long to explain in a 30 second segment. This habit has created a Hollywood-like news cycle infatuated with explosions, scandal, and falls from grace. In this cycle we almost only hear about Islam when it is conflated with terrorism, explosions, conflict, or the repressive elements of a minority’s interpretation of Sharia. Perhaps explaining these conflations is contributing to this cycle of xenophobia as well?

 

 

< The Sparrow Project has printed these benefit t-shirts in an attempt to combat Islamophobia.  Proceeds raised from the sale of these shirts will benefit victims of hate crimes.

 

Less newsworthy, but far more important facts remain under-reported. Xenophobia is running rampant across America and around the world. Racist evangelical conservatives who separate “Allah” from the “God” of the Christian New Testament, disregard the fact that Jesus spoke Aramaic (a language which shares many words with Arabic including “Allah,” as the word for God) and are ignorant of the glaring fact that all of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic faiths worship the same single deity. The term “Islamist” is a term fabricated by right-leaning pundits and bloggers like Glen Beck, Michael Savage and Pamela Gellar, who attempt conflate non-violent Muslims with fascists. Moreover, Jihad means to “strive” or “struggle,” and this term can include everything from one’s personal struggle with alcoholism to a wider social struggle against oppression from a dictator or governing body, the true definition of Jihad is completely divergent from the contemporary adaptation of the word repeatedly used by the mainstream western media. Despite popular western belief, most fundamentalist Muslims do not endorse violence as part of their Jihad. Moreover, most Muslims are not fundamentalists.

However, these less sensational facts don’t support the right-leaning media’s hysterical narrative that at times could appear to exist for no other purpose then to perpetuate a climate of fear of Muslims and to further justify preemptive US military actions in Islamic countries. When the habitual focus of media outlets on both the left and right leave little space for factual dialogue surrounding Islam, its merits, its practitioners, and its tremendous beauty then the onus is on us to create our own inventive grassroots responses to Islamophobia and racism. The Sparrow Project applauds Unity Productions for developing this hard-hitting video short where vulgar soundbites from Michael Savage and similar Islamophobes are juxtaposed against the dominant message of beauty, peace, love, and solidarity.