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Latest victim of the war at home
Framed in a fabricated bomb plot

By Petrino DiLeo | January 19, 2007 | Page 16

IN ITS latest frame-up operation, the federal government has locked up a 24-year-old Pakistani immigrant for 30 years--and arrested three other members of his family.

It's a case that features many of the worst aspects of the domestic front of the "war on terror"--racial profiling, scapegoating and government intimidation.

Shahawar Matin Siraj, who speaks little English, was entrapped by police informants, who lured him into a scheme to bomb the Herald Square subway station in New York City. Siraj was arrested days before the Republican National Convention in 2004.

Police allege that Siraj and 19-year-old James Elshafay of Staten Island conducted surveillance of the station, drawing diagrams of the entrances and exits. But even when they were arrested, police officials stressed that neither man had obtained explosives nor set a timetable for an attack.

In fact, Siraj was entrapped by a police informant, Osama Eldawoody, who goaded Siraj and Elshafay into the plot by showing them pictures of the Abu Ghraib prison.

As Siraj's attorney, Martin Stolar, told the radio program Democracy Now! "They came to the U.S., and then Matin runs into this fellow who says, 'I'm an Islamic scholar. I'm twice your age. Let me teach you about what the duty of somebody who's really an Islamic person is.' And he begins to befriend him. And as the war in Iraq starts to ramp up, and as the pictures of Abu Ghraib come out, this guy starts to twist this young man.

"He's now just 22 years old. He's been in the U.S. since 1999, and [Eldawoody] convinces him that it is the duty of somebody who is a true believer to engage in violent jihad--that is, to cause great economic harm to the United States. And he twists him and convinces him that it's his duty to do this."

Eldawoody pretended to be part of a fictional group called the "Brotherhood" and convinced the young men to pick a target and plot an attack. Yet all the time Eldawoody was taping the conversations, which became the bulk of the evidence used to convict Siraj. Elshafay was also arrested, but agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. He testified at Siraj's trial, which was held in April.

But the tapes also show that Eldawoody promised to supply the explosives and backpacks, and kept pushing for the attack. When Siraj began to have doubts and decided he didn't want to do it, Eldawoody turned him in.

"In essence, what we have is the New York City Police Department creating a crime so they can solve the crime and claim a victory in the war on terror," Stolar says. Nevertheless, on January 8, Siraj was sentenced to 30 years.

The next morning, things got worse. Less than 12 hours after the sentencing, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided the Siraj family's home and arrested his father, Siraj Abdul Rehman; his mother, Shahina Parveen; and his 19-year-old sister, Sanya Siraj.

ICE officials reported that the family was arrested on immigration-related charges, and that the father's appeal for an asylum case was denied.

But according to Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), a community-based organization that works with Muslim and South Asian immigrants, the appeal is still pending--and the mother and daughter have no pending immigration cases or orders.

"Given the high-profile media attention on their son's case, in which there were many underhanded legal irregularities and rights violations, these arrests are being seen by the community as an attempt to silence and make an example of the family through harassment," according to a statement from DRUM.

Both Siraj's father and mother have ongoing and severe medical conditions, and his mother was only allowed to take two days of medicine with her at the time of the arrests. All three family members are currently being held at Elizabeth Detention Center in Elizabeth, N.J., but they may be moved or sent to different facilities.

For more information on the case, go to DRUM's web site at drumnation.org. DRUM is urging activists to call the ICE Field Office Director at 973-645-3666, and demand that the Siraj family be released immediately, and to call Warden Charlotte Collins at Elizabeth Detention Center at 908-352-3776 to demand that medical care be given to Siraj's parents.

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