Rights Groups Issue Open Letter on Upcoming NYC Trial of Syed Fahad Hashmi and Severe Special Administrative Measures

For Immediate Release

Rights Groups Issue Open Letter on Upcoming NYC Trial of Syed Fahad Hashmi and Severe Special Administrative Measures

NEW YORK - The Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International USA, and
the Council on American Islamic Relations-NY released an open letter
today expressing their serious concerns about the trial of Syed Fahad
Hashmi, set to begin on April 28. The human rights organizations
discuss Mr. Hashmi’s severe conditions of confinement over the last
three years in which he has awaited trial, their impact on his mental
health, and his ability to effectively participate in his own defense.

The material support charges against Mr. Hashmi are based on the
allegation that he allowed an acquaintance, Junaid Babar, to use his
cell phone and to stay with him at his apartment in London where he was
pursuing a Master’s degree. According to Mr. Hashmi’s indictment, Babar
had waterproof socks and rain ponchos in his luggage that he later
delivered to al-Qaeda in South Waziristan. Mr. Hashmi denies all
charges against him. 

In their letter, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty
International USA, and the Council on American Islamic Relations-NY
urge the Attorney General to review and revise the Department of
Justice regulations governing the imposition of severe Special
Administrative Measures (SAMs) to ensure that all prisoners are held in
humane conditions, are not subjected to discriminatory treatment, are
given adequate information about why SAMs are being imposed, and are
given a full opportunity to argue and present evidence against their
imposition.

Two days ago, CCR publicly condemned the government’s attempt to
frighten the jury in Mr. Hashmi’s case, calling the U.S. Attorney’s
motion for the jurors to be anonymous and kept under extra security
because of the attention and political activism these issues have drawn
to the case “a clear attempt to influence the jury by creating a sense
of fear for their safety and to paint Mr. Hashmi as already guilty.”

Open Letter from Amnesty International USA, the Center
for Constitutional Rights, and the Council on American Islamic
Relations-NY on the upcoming trial of Syed Fahad Hashmi and the severe
Special Administrative Measures to which he is subjected :

On April 28, Syed Fahad Hashmi is scheduled to be tried in the Southern
District of New York on charges of material support for terrorism. Mr.
Hashmi has been held in pretrial detention at the Special Housing Unit
at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, pursuant to
Special Administrative Measures, or SAMs, for almost three years now. 
These measures have severely limited his ability to communicate with
the outside world and effectively placed him in solitary confinement,
although he has not been convicted of any crime.

Mr. Hashmi is 30 years old, was raised in Queens and attended Brooklyn
College before moving to London to obtain a Master’s degree in
political science.  Since his extradition to the United States in May
2007, he has been imprisoned alone in a cell and not permitted to
speak, worship or otherwise communicate with any other prisoners. He is
not permitted any visitors or outside communications, except for his
attorneys and limited visits from immediate family. He is not allowed
any physical human contact, even from his closest family members. Mr.
Hashmi is allowed one hour per day of physical exercise, which must be
taken alone, in a small cage inside the prison. He is not permitted
access to any natural air or sunlight. Moreover, Mr. Hashmi is
subjected to a strip-search before his one hour per day of exercise. 
Due to the resulting humiliation he experiences, he has chosen to
forego this hour outside of his cell altogether.

In addition, Mr. Hashmi is subjected to constant surveillance, not only
when he is alone in his cell but also when he showers, uses the toilet,
or meets with an attorney or family member. He may not communicate with
any members of the media, and he is forbidden from listening to a
television or radio news program or reading a timely newspaper.

Mr. Hashmi’s family, friends and attorneys are extremely concerned that
his mental health is rapidly deteriorating under these extreme
conditions. It is well-documented that solitary confinement can have
severely detrimental effects on a prisoner’s mental health. It may also
affect his ability to effectively participate in his trial and to
present his defense.

Muslim community groups are increasingly expressing concern about these
prison conditions, as they seem to be imposed disproportionately on
Muslims suspected of connections with terrorism.

SAMs may be imposed on a particular inmate, according to the Department
of Justice’s regulations, when such measures are “reasonably necessary
to prevent disclosure of classified information,” or when “reasonably
necessary to protect persons against the risk of death or serious
bodily injury.”  To be extended beyond the initial 120-day period, the
Attorney General or federal law enforcement must demonstrate that such
measures are reasonably necessary “because there is a substantial risk
that an inmate’s communications or contacts with persons could result
in death or serious bodily injury to persons, or substantial damage to
property that would entail the risk of death or serious bodily injury
to persons.”

The material support charges against Mr. Hashmi are based on the
allegation that he allowed an acquaintance, Junaid Babar, to use his
cell phone and to stay with him at his apartment in London where he was
pursuing a Master’s degree. According to Mr. Hashmi’s indictment, Babar
had waterproof socks and rain ponchos in his luggage that he later
delivered to al-Qaeda in South Waziristan. Mr. Hashmi denies all
charges against him. These charges will be the subject of his trial.

We are concerned that Mr. Hashmi has not been informed of the reasons
for the imposition of SAMs.  We are also concerned that Mr. Hashmi is
being held under conditions that are not consistent with international
standards for humane treatment. Due to their likely impact on his
mental health, we are further concerned that these conditions will
prejudice his ability to assist in his own defense.

The Department of Justice stated last year that 46 inmates around the
country were being confined pursuant to SAMs. Although we recognize
that the department has a legitimate interest in protecting classified
information that may harm national security and in protecting the
public against acts of terrorism, we are very concerned that inmates
held pursuant to such measures are not being given an adequate
opportunity to defend against the imposition of SAMs in their cases.

We urge the Attorney General to review and revise the agency’s
regulations governing the imposition of SAMs to ensure that all
prisoners regardless of their security status are held in humane
conditions, are not subjected to discriminatory treatment, are given
adequate information about why SAMs are being imposed, and are given a
full opportunity to argue and present evidence against their imposition.

Amnesty International USA
Center for Constitutional Rights
Council on American Islamic Relations - New York

 

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The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

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