Personal stories of preemptive prosecution

Published March 24th, 2010 - 11:05 GMT

On Thursday, March 25, 2010, six panelists will discuss their experiences with preemptive prosecution in a post-9/11 context.  The free event will take place at 7 p.m. in New York University’s Vanderbilt Room 220, located at 40 Washington Square South. According to event organizer Ayesha Hoda, attendees will meet the eclectic faces behind the charges and convictions that were triggered by the Patriot Act and justice department abuse. 

“This event started as a way for family members of the Newburgh Four to tell their story, but I soon discovered that these types of cases are pervasive,” Hoda said.  

Panelists

Mauri Saalakhan, founder of Peace and Justice Foundation; Alicia McWilliams, relative of the Newburgh Four; Faisal Hashmi, brother of prisoner Fahad Hashmi; Lynne Jackson, co-founder of Project Salam; Lejla Duka, 12-year old family member of the Fort Dix Five; and Noor Elashi, daughter of a Holy Land Foundation political prisoner who is serving a 65-year sentence for running a charity that helped Palestinians.   

An affiliate of Project Salam, a support and legal advocacy organization for Muslims prosecuted on trumped-up charges said, “Following 9/11 the FBI and Justice Department indicated that they were operating under a new paradigm of preventing terrorist attacks before they occurred.  This paradigm suggested that charges could be brought against people who they suspected might commit crimes in order to obtain convictions before any crimes actually occurred. Such prosecutions seem in fact to have occurred and it appears that completely innocent Muslims have been convicted and sent away for long prison sentences based only on suspicion and concocted charges.”

Some speakers will make the connection between the War on Drugs and the War on Terror with respect to their discriminatory practices of racial profiling and preemptive incarceration of specific communities. While all of the speakers address instances of post-9/11 hysteria executed through the Patriot Act, each speaker’s case reflects diverse tactics that comprise today’s COINTELPRO. “I felt paralyzed as I watch prosecutors use intimidation tactics and guilt by association to return convictions against my father and his four colleagues,” said Noor Elashi, whose father was almost vindicated during a 2007 hang jury and convicted during a 2008 retrial. A Project Salam associate said that these trials have “stretched legal concepts beyond the point where a fair trial is possible, and is unfairly damaging communities.” 

In the wake of the January re-approval of Patriot Act provisions, Hoda emphasizes, “Without public awareness, these types of injustices will only continue.  Each case is unique, but when they stand side-by-side, it becomes apparent that the systematic violations of civil rights are widespread.”  

This event is part of an ongoing movement to expose violations of civil liberties, human rights and racial profiling and organizers call on all Americans to conserve constitutional values.  


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