Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Sept/Oct 2009, Pages 44-45

Human Rights

Families and Supporters of Muslim Defendants Meet, March in Albany

Zurata Duka (c), mother of three of Fort Dix 5, protests the incarceration of her sons. (Photo J. Finley)

The Muslim Solidarity Committee in Albany, New York organized an Aug. 4 rally and march to mark the fifth anniversary of the arrests of Imam Yassin Aref and businessman Mohammed Hossain. The two men were entrapped in a 2004 FBI sting operation that used a paid agent provocateur. Convicted in 2006 of money laundering and material aid to terrorism, each is serving 15 years in a federal prison: Aref at the Communication Management Unit (CMU) at Marion, Illinois, and Hossain at USP Fairton in New Jersey.

Marching with the nearly 200 supporters who represented 14 other peace and justice organizations were family members and supporters of defendants from two other high-publicity cases of Muslim entrapment: the Fort Dix 5 (New Jersey) and the Newburgh 4 (New York). Like Aref-Hossain, both cases used paid informants to entrap Muslims into participating in “plots” that were originated and proposed by the provocateurs (the Newburgh case, which used the same informant as in Albany, has not yet gone to trial). It was the first time that families and support groups of several Muslim “terror” defendants met and joined in solidarity with each other.

The Aref-Hossain case is an example of the U.S. government’s new model of law enforcement in the “war on terror,” which it calls “pre-emptive prosecution,” whereby defendants are prosecuted before they commit a crime. The fact that these prosecutions are directed exclusively at one religious community—Muslims—not only violates Constitutional protections, which forbid the prosecution of people who have no intention of committing a crime, but also discriminates against Muslims.

The march and rally, which ended at the Masjid As-Salam, where Aref was imam, concluded with a roster of speakers, including Lejla and Burim Duka, daughter and brother of one of the Fort Dix 5; Steve Downs and Kathy Manley, attorneys for Yassin Aref; Joe Piette of the Fort Dix 5 Support Committee in Philadelphia; Mauri Saalakhan of the Peace and Justice Foundation in Silver Spring, Maryland; Huma Ahmad, who read a speech by her brother Faisal, who spoke for the mosque the day of the Aref-Hossain arrests; Bob Elmendorf of the Dr. Rafil Dhafir Support Committee in Syracuse, New York; and this writer, who read a message by Yassin Aref.

—Jeanne Finley