Justice for the Newburgh Four

August 4, 2010

NEW YORK--About 30 protesters gathered on the steps of City Hall on July 21 to protest the FBI entrapment of "The Newburgh Four"--four upstate residents arrested last year on charges of terrorism.

Activists chose this location for the protest because this is where Mayor Michael Bloomberg held a ceremony on May 22, 2009, to award certificates to 100 Homeland Security officers and counterterrorist specialists from the FBI, NYPD and state police, for the arrest of the four. That ceremony took place just two days after the arrest of James Cromitie, David Williams, Laguerre Payen and Onta Williams--and before their trial even began.

The FBI arrested the four African American men from Newburgh, N.Y., on charges of plotting to shoot down military planes and bomb synagogues. Immediately, the four were labeled terrorists in a media frenzy. Since then, members of their families have lost their jobs, and their communities have shied away from them in fear.

Each defendant is an ex-offender, although none of them was ever convicted of a violent crime. With no real re-entry programs or job training, unemployment and poverty proved a harsh reality upon returning to Newburgh.

Shahed Hussain, a government agent provocateur who is facing incarceration and possible deportation himself, evaded punishment by cooperating with the government in the entrapment of several individuals. Hussain befriended the four in late April 2009, a month before their arrest. With offers of money, marijuana, cars and vacations, he lured the four into collaborating on so-called "terror plots." Government tapes of their conversations indicate that the men thought the whole plot was a stunt.

According to the Times Herald Record, Judge Colleen McMahon, who is presiding over the case, stated in a May 28, 2010, pre-trial hearing, "I have referred to the case for a number of months in the privacy of my chambers as the 'un-terrorism case'."

The supporters gathering Wednesday in support of the Newburgh Four held signs and banners, and chanted for justice. A few speakers spoke to the crowd and the press. Among them was Shahina Siraj, whose son, Matin Siraj, was also targeted and entrapped by the same informant, as well as Alicia McWilliams, David Williams' aunt, who has been spearheading the campaign for the release of the four.

McWilliams demanded Mayor Bloomberg apologize and said, "I can't believe how lightly they [the politicians] are taking it. No one is speaking up for an African American family...Is this a new platform of slavery?...Is this how they are selling people?"

The trial is set for August 23, 2010, in Manhattan. For more information on the Newburgh Four, visit the Project SALAM Web site or e-mail [email protected].

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