Is being Muslim a capital crime in Ohio?

February 1, 2008

Siddique Abdullah Hasan is one of the Lucasville Five--a group of men railroaded onto death row in Ohio after a 1993 prison rebellion in which inmates at the Lucasville prison rose up against the abuses and arbitrary rules of prison guards and officials.

IN THE aftermath of the 1993 prison uprising which rocked the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, the state of Ohio was under enormous political pressure to bring to justice the perpetrators of certain violent crimes, especially the senseless murder of prison guard Robert Vallandingham.

With not a single soul coming forth with any concrete information, and being faced with the humongous task of having to investigate the largest crime scene in its history, the state of Ohio did the unthinkable--it fabricated evidence and repeatedly utilized perjured testimony to obtain convictions, notwithstanding the law and disciplinary rules which prohibit attorneys from using fraudulent, false or perjured testimony or evidence.

I am one of those innocent prisoners apprehended in the state's diabolical scheme. Why? Because of my leadership role within the Islamic community, as well as the fact that I was an outspoken critic of the oppressive prison conditions and policies, the state sought to make me its prime scapegoat. Thus, I became the phantom "ringleader" of the uprising, although there's ample evidence to the contrary--most notably, an audiotape.

What you can do

Supporters have called for a "National Unity Day of Action" for the Lucasville Five on February 4.

Demand that Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland overturn the wrongful convictions that resulted from the Lucasville uprising; contact the governor's office by phone at 614-466-3555, by fax at 614-466-9354, or on the Web.

For more information on Siddique's case, see the Web site. You can download a sample letters of support for the Lucasville Five by clicking on the "Amnesty Letter" link.

Staughton Lynd's book Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising can be purchased for $20 from the Free Siddique Abdullah Hasan Coalition, P.O. Box 20011, Toledo, Ohio 43610.

There is no doubt that the effort to create the impression I was the person responsible for the uprising and the death of the prison guard comes from the state's fear and hatred of my religion. This became evident when, during the course of my trial in Cincinnati, the state repeatedly focused on my race, religion and Islamic attire--all to create an atmosphere of racial prejudice and Islamophobia before a predominately white and Catholic jury.

TO FULLY understand why I became the prime scapegoat, one has to understand what prompted the uprising. To set the record straight, there was never any intent to have an uprising. Instead, there was only a plan to have a peaceful protest against the Mantoux tuberculin (TB) test.

This particular TB test was being made mandatory upon all prisoners although other forms of TB testing were readily available and would have reached the same medical conclusion. Since this test contained phenol, an alcoholic substance that is prohibited for Muslims to have injected into their forearm, we had rejected taking it on religious grounds, but did plead with the prison authorities to permit us to submit to an alternative, which would not infringe upon our religious beliefs.

Rather than trying to work out reasonable compromises and accommodations of our religious needs, the prison warden was dead-set on forcing us to engage in conduct which was contrary to our religious beliefs and teachings.

While I will concede that the TB test was the last straw which broke the camel's back, the inhumane treatment and the long train of abuses are what induced some non-Muslims to seize the opportunity to instantaneously convert a peaceful protest into a full-scale rebellion. I cannot and will not concede that Muslims were responsible for non-Muslims' actions; however, the state feels otherwise.

And though I committed no crimes, especially not a senseless murder, the state has claimed that "I ordered the murder of its guard." Yet there is medical, physical and scientific evidence to refute its bogus claim.

My conviction is based on nothing but snitch testimony--that is, testimony from snitchers whose hands were soaked in human blood as a result of assaults, kidnappings, murders and other crimes they committed. These less-than-reliable witnesses testified that I "chaired the meeting where a unanimous vote was silently made to murder a guard if prisoners' demands were not met," and that I "personally ordered the guard's murder just minutes before it happened."

In fact, the state's star witness, who failed a polygraph test and was originally charged with the guard's murder, claimed he witnessed "a 45-pound Olympic weight bar being placed on the front of the guard's neck, with two inmates standing on opposite sides of it rocking back and forth."

The following facts, however, refute these bogus and uncorroborated claims:

The state has reluctantly conceded that my voice is not heard on a secretly recorded audiotape of the meeting. It is interesting to note that this audiotape was used as evidence in other prisoners' trials, and was vital in securing their convictions. But it was not used in my trial after we requested funds for an expert to prove that the audiotape was altered.

The state has also reluctantly conceded that I did not chair the meeting, but another prisoner did. Besides, how could I have chaired it when I wasn't even present?

The state's own expert witness, Dr. Patrick M. Fardal, the chief forensic pathologist and deputy coroner for Franklin County, who conducted nearly 4,000 autopsies, stated under oath that he "could state to a reasonable degree of medical certainty or scientific certainty that what the star witness described about the weight bar did not occur."

The star witness has recanted his testimony in two separate affidavits and has admitted the state coerced him to lie in order to secure my conviction.

These are only some of the problems with my case. There are numerous others which I have not stated due to time and space constraints. But I can assure you that I committed no crimes, unless being a Muslim in a non-Muslim society is a crime.

Thus, my conviction and the death penalty being imposed upon me is a direct result of perjured testimonies. Likewise, my conviction and death sentence is a direct result of the state's desire to take away our right to practice our religion.

It is easier to attack someone you do not understand. The fear of the unknown is widespread and contagious; yet, if those who are different--who engage in practices the majority do not fully understand--cannot be protected, then no one can.

I believed that the United States was a nation of laws; moreover, I believed that those laws were for everyone, not just a few.

Thus, I am making an appeal for international support, in the hopes that it will help me to regain my rightful freedom, because this fight for my freedom is too hard for me to conceive achieving alone. Therefore, I need for you to be aware of my case, to be concerned about my case, and, most importantly, to help. Not just for me, but for yourself, your family and your friends.

If this gross miscarriage of justice can happen to me, then it can happen to anyone. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

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