Sunday, September 14, 2008

PSC Solidarity Committee and Syed Fahad Hashmi

Sharad Karkhanis just e-mailed this. Jim Perlstein, the Vice Chapter chair of the PSC's Retiree Chapter posted the following on the PSC Alert Yahoo Group on the Hashmi case. Hashmi was a student, not a member of the faculty or the union, accused of terrorism in England and extradited to the U.S. Karkhanis asks: "Why is this then a PSC alert? You draw the conclusions."

Lacking any special access to the case facts, the PSC has been clamoring for Hashmi's release.

>Posted by: "Jim Perlstein"
>Sun Sep 7, 2008 8:25 am (PDT)
>FYI. From the PSC Solidarity Committee:

>>This past spring, you signed a petition regarding the case of Syed Fahad Hashmi, a former Brooklyn College student currently being held in solitary confinement on four counts of providing material support to Al Qaida. We're writing you now to update you on the case and our campaign ­ and to ask you to do a small thing. The trial date for Hashmi's case has now been postponed until the spring of 2009. Hashmi's attorney, Sean Maher, was finally given clearance to see the classified evidence the prosecution intends to present against Hashmi. Maher is forbidden to discuss this evidence with anyone, including Hashmi. Maher's law partner Khurrum Walid, who is helping Maher litigate this case, only received clearance this week. The prosecution has described this evidence as "voluminous," yet only Maher, up to this point, has been able to examine it. Because of the Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) imposed upon Hashmi (more on this below), Maher is also forbidden to discuss his conversations with Hashmi with outside experts. Hashmi's right to counsel ­ and a fair trial ­ is thus being hampered in two ways: by the secrecy of the evidence and by the SAMs.

>>Judge Preska is presiding over the case. She was appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush. She has frequently been mentioned as one of the current president's possible Supreme Court nominees. She has refused to entertain objections from Maher about the SAMs and the rules of secrecy. She also refused to allow Hashmi
>out on bail: even though his family raised $500,000 from the community to post bail for him, Preska insisted that he had insufficient community and family ties and thus posed a flight risk. 550 scholars, artists, and writers ­ including Henry Louis Gates, Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler, Angela Davis, Eric Foner, Tony Judt, Susan
>Faludi, David Cole, and many more ­ joined you in signing the petition. It was sent to the Attorney General, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the entire congressional delegation for New York, and other local and state officials in New York. Kathleen M. Kenney of the Justice Department responded on July 31, claiming that the petition's signatories could "rest assured that any issue brought to our attention by Mr. Hashmi or his attorney(s) is addressed in a timely fashion." The news media has picked up on our campaign. The Chronicle of Higher Education published a lengthy feature on the campaign...and it was profiled in the New York Daily News and on Pacifica radio station. Journalists at other media outlets have expressed continuing interest, and we expect to place additional stories in the near future.

>>Right now, though, we are asking you take a small but important step to help alleviate the draconian conditions of Mr. Hashmi's confinement. As you might recall, the Attorney General imposed the SAMs on Hashmi in October 2007. They threaten his mental health and ability to get a fair trial. (For more details on the SAMs, go to

>>The SAMs are up for review by Attorney General Michael Mukasey in October. We are asking you to send an email to Mukasey and to Michael Garcia, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, asking them to lift the SAMs. To send the email, go to
> We also ask that you circulate the attached description of the Hashmi case and conditions of Hashmi's confinement, and urge friends, students, and colleagues to join in our campaign to lift the SAMs.


Corey Robin and Jeanne Theoharis
Educators for Civil Liberties
It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of those libertiesSwhich makes the defense of this nation worthwhile.
--Chief Justice Earl Warren, 1967

>>Syed Fahad Hashmi is a 28-year-old Muslim American citizen currently being held in solitary confinement in a federal jail 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. If convicted, he faces seventy years in prison. Hashmi came to the U.S. from Pakistan with his family when he was three and grew up in Flushing, Queens.

>>He majored in political science at Brooklyn College and then attended the London Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom where he received his MA in international relations. In June 2006, he was arrested by British police at Heathrow Airport (he was about to travel to Pakistan, where he has family) on a warrant issued by the US government. In May 2007, he was extradited to the U.S., where he has since been held in solitary confinement under Special Administrative Measures (SAM) at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City.

>>The U.S. government claims that testimony from Junaid Babar is the "centerpiece" of its case against Hashmi. The government alleges that during February 2004, Babar, also a Pakistani-born US citizen, stayed with Hashmi at his London apartment for two weeks. According to the government, Babar stored luggage containing raincoats, ponchos, and waterproof socks in Hashmi's apartment and then delivered these materials to the third-ranking member of Al Qaida in South Waziristan, Pakistan. In addition, Hashmi allegedly allowed Babar to use his cell phone to call other conspirators. Babar, who has pleaded guilty to five counts of material support for Al Qaida, has agreed to serve as a government witness in terrorism trials in Britain and Canada as well as in Hashmi's trial. Under a plea agreement reported in the media, Babar will receive a reduced sentence in return for his cooperation.

>>The Conditions

>>The conditions of Mr. Hashmi¹s pre-trial detention are draconian. He is subject to a regime of severe isolation. Under the SAMs imposed by the Attorney General, Hashmi must be held in solitary confinement and may not communicate with anyone inside the prison other than prison officials. He is subject to 24-hour electronic monitoring inside and outside of his cell and 23-hour lockdown. He has no access to fresh air, and must take his one-hour of daily recreation - when it is given - inside a cage. Family visits, which were not granted for many months, are limited to one person every other week for one and a half hours; they cannot involve physical contact. Mr. Hashmi may write only one letter (of no more than three pieces of paper) per week to one family member. He may not communicate, either directly or through his attorneys, with the news media. He may read only designated portions of newspapers - and not until thirty days after their publication - and his access to other reading material is restricted. He may not listen to or watch news-oriented radio stations and television channels. He may not participate in group prayer. While the Attorney General claims that these measures are necessary because "there is substantial risk that [Hashmi's]communications or contacts with persons could result in death or serious bodily injury to persons," he was held in a British jail with other prisoners for eleven months without incident.

>>These Special Administrative Measures undermine Mr. Hashmi¹s right to a fair trial: they threaten his mental state and ability to testify on his own behalf; the severity of their constraints casts a pall of suspicion over him, effectively depicting him as guilty before he even enters the courtroom; [PC1] <#_msocom_1> and by prohibiting Hashmi's attorney from conveying the content of his conversations with Hashmi to outside experts, they impair Hashmi's right to counsel. They also rise to the level of cruel and unusual punishment.

>>History of Special Administrative Measures

>>The government¹s ability to impose Special Administrative Measures was established in 1996. Since 9/11, it has been dramatically expanded. SAMs can now be imposed for a year; previously it was 120 days. The standards for their imposition ­ and conditions for their renewal ­ have been relaxed. Previously, renewals required an intelligence agency head to ³certify that Othe circumstances identified in the original certification continue to exist.¹² Now, renewals ³may be based on any information available to the intelligence agency,² whether that information confirms the persistence of the original circumstances or not. Of 201,000 prisoners currently within the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, fewer than fifty are presently
being held under SAMs. [PC2] <#_msocom_2>


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