Stepping up the pressure against Islamophobia

Ayyub Abdul-Alim has spent two years awaiting trial for the "crime" of refusing to be a police informant in Springfield's Muslim community, reports Vanessa Whitney Zorlu.

Supporters of Ayyub Abdul-Alim gather for a rally before a court date (Justice for Ayyub)Supporters of Ayyub Abdul-Alim gather for a rally before a court date (Justice for Ayyub)

THE FIGHT to free Ayyub Abdul-Alim, a Muslim man and local business owner in Springfield, Mass., has heated up in the last two weeks.

On November 15, Ayyub's defense team arrived in court for a "motion to suppress" hearing that would have challenged the use of paid informants and an illegal search by the police in his arrest. More than 60 people mobilized to the courthouse to show their support for Ayyub--and in the process got a firsthand glimpse of just how scared the courts can be of public scrutiny.

Ayyub's ordeal began after he told the FBI and Springfield police that he would not serve as an informant in his city's Muslim community. In retaliation, he was framed with an illegal firearms charge, was taken into custody and has remained there since awaiting trial. That was two years ago.

When Ayyub's supporters entered the courthouse in mid-November, they learned that the hearing date had been changed. Ayyub was not in the courthouse, and no one had been notified of the date change. Tom Robinson, Ayyub's attorney, felt that the delay would give them more time to find the informant who helped to frame Ayyub. He described her testimony as "essential to Ayyub's defense."

Inside the courthouse, Robinson asked to see the sign-up sheet for those requesting to be heard in front of the judge. He was told the sheet was lost. When he asked how it had been lost, he was told due to "inadvertence."

When the group came forward to inquire further, the flustered clerk threw up his hands and finally said, "I shredded it!" The group then went to the office of Hampden District Attorney Mark Mastroianni to learn why the court date had been changed with no warning and to impress on him their firm resolve to see Ayyub's charges dropped.

What you can do

The Justice for Ayyub website has more information about his case. Stay updated by following the group's Facebook page.

When the secretary saw how many people were waiting to speak to Mastroianni, they brought cops into the office and then said that he was "in a meeting" and would not be able to address the group.

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DESPITE THE frustration of being blown off by the court, the group maintained its calm and moved forward with resolve. It came together to write a statement for the DA, expressing displeasure at his lack of addressing the group and reiterating solidarity with Ayyub.

"We are making history," said organizer Vira Cage. People came out to support Ayyub, but for many it was a great insight into the workings of the "justice system"--and how disorganized and disinterested the courthouse and law officials are in working with the people for justice.

"This is a great day," said Hampshire College student Marcelle French. "The suits are intimidated by the T-shirts."

Some speculated that the court date had been changed in order to demoralize Ayyub's supporters and deter them from coming back, but if this was the court's intention, they must have been disappointed. A group of more than 50 people again mobilized to the courthouse for the rescheduled hearing on November 21. The movement to free Ayyub continues to grow with spirit, energy and numbers.

First published at Peace Walks.