Facing a Guantánamo on American soil

April 13, 2009

Fahad Hashmi is another American Muslim victim of the U.S. "war on terror." This 29-year-old Pakistani-American man has been behind bars since June 2006, charged with giving material support to al-Qaeda. But the evidence against him amounts to allowing an acquaintance to stay in his London apartment, who later allegedly gave socks and ponchos to al-Qaeda.

Fahad was seized in Britain and detained there before being extradited to the U.S., where he has been held in solitary confinement for almost two years. His case is scheduled to go to trial in May. If convicted, Fahad could face up to 70 years in prison.

Faisal Hashmi, Fahad's brother, has helped organize the Free Fahad campaign and the Muslim Justice Initiative, which publicizes other cases of Muslims wrongfully imprisoned under the "war on terror." He spoke to Kwasi West about Fahad's case and what comes next.

WHAT IS the government's case against Fahad?

FAHAD ALLOWED an alleged friend, Junaid Babar, to stay in his apartment for two weeks. After this, Junaid allegedly gave ponchos and waterproof socks to al-Qaeda. For this, Fahad has been charged with material support to terrorism.

But they are also trying to use Fahad's freedom of speech against him. Fahad was a well-known activist in the Muslim community. He has strong views of his own. But this is material support to terrorism? These are the standards applied to Muslims in the post-9/11 world.

WHAT ARE the conditions of his detention?

FAHAD IS being tortured. He has been in solitary confinement for two years. He is on lockdown 23 hours a day, and on days when he is allowed one hour of exercise, he has to take it in a cage. He is deprived of reading material or a radio, which he was initially allowed, and his family visits have been a joke. The family has been turned away on days they were supposed to be allowed to visit.

In his own cell, he has limited privacy as there is a camera watching him at all times. He cannot speak out loud. He cannot move in certain ways--he literally cannot move within his own solitary hell in ways that the government deems illegal.

Prisoners of the government's "war on terror" face conditions that amount to torture

Basically, you have a man deprived of speech, literature, movement, family visits--all this before he has been tried. This is brutal torture sanctioned by the U.S. Attorney General. This is a tactic that the government has used to break defendants before their trials in so-called terrorism cases for the past eight years.

DO YOU think the new Obama administration will be a help in your brother's case?

THE NEWS from the new Justice Department indicates that it has not helped. Words do not mean change. The state of oppression that existed before the administration change still exists today.

Fahad is still in solitary confinement and treated inhumanely by his persecutors. The same charade still exists today. His parents are being turned away at the door on days that the government said they were allowed to visit, all in an attempt to deprive Fahad of human contact.

We have lost all motions from the judge in what seemed to be farce hearings--hearings about his conditions of detention (our stance is that it is torture); hearings about the use of arbitrary secret evidence, the use of illegal wiretapping of Fahad. All these motions have been lost, giving the prosecution team leverage in their case against Fahad.

What you can do

Supporters are asked to turn out for the next hearing for Fahad Hashmi, which will take place on Monday, April 13, at 10 a.m. in front of Judge Loretta Preska at 500 Pearl St. in Manhattan.

For more information about the case, including organizing meetings, visit the Free Fahad Web site, where you can also make a donation, sign a petition and view the Free Fahad You Tube channel. There is also information about Fahad at the Muslim Justice Initiative Web site.

Our lawyer had made very compelling and legally profound arguments about Fahad's detention, and they were dismissed by the judge. So nothing has changed for us--in fact, the new Attorney General signed paperwork affirming the government stance of wiretapping Fahad for years.

PRESIDENT OBAMA has promised to reverse much of the Bush administration's approach toward detentions under the "war on terror." Most significantly, he has pledged to close Guantánamo within the next year. What are your thoughts on this?

WE SAY no Guantánamo at home. The Guantánamo conditions that existed in Cuba also exist surreptitiously on American soil. The so-called "rule of law" has been dismissed in cases of Muslims. We have wholesale torture being practiced and the imposition of draconian conditions on Fahad.

The closing of Guantánamo means what exactly? That these people will be subjugated to the draconian measures of a deeply flawed federal system here in the U.S.?

Ask the family of Saifullah Paracha, who is in Guantánamo, if they want him to be put on trial in the U.S. federal courts system. This is the same system that has destroyed the life of Saifullah's son, Uzair in New York. They are absolutely terrified that Saifullah will experience the federal system. Please research these two cases so you see what I am talking about.

We say that a true examination of this state of fear has to take place. The new administration talks a lot, but it is a joke. The use of words like "change" and "hope" do not amount to anything without ending this atmosphere of abuse of Muslims. Freeing Fahad is a first step toward addressing this oppression. People don't understand how hard the last eight years have been for Muslims in America.

CAN YOU tell us a little bit about the Free Fahad campaign and where you want to see it go from here?

THIS IS the new civil rights movement for Muslims. We have been hearing about the "winds of change" in this country, but we have to act on it. I just want my brother to be free.

We have tried to spread news about Fahad's case through the Internet and our Web sites, the Free Fahad Campaign and the Muslim Justice Initiative. We have also publicized the case on Doug Henwood's radio show "Behind the News" on WBAI, and through meetings in the Muslim community in New York.

So far, we have received great support from wide communities. We have packed every court hearing for Fahad. We want to continue to do this, and we urge everyone to come to the next hearing, so that Judge Preska sees that people are watching. We ask everyone who shows up to tell ten other people and bring them to the courthouse.

We want people to witness this injustice. We want people to be aware of the government's tactics. This is the great judiciary system of America, but they don't even follow their own rules.

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