Tuesday, August 20, 2013

“Tragedy Made us a Family”: Todashev widow visits Tsarnaevs in Dagestan

Reni Todashev and Zubeidat Tsarnaev comfort each other in Makhachkala, Dagestan
Zubeidat and Anzor Tsarnaev’s lives were changed forever April 19, 2013 when they learned their eldest son Tamerlan was killed by Boston police and their younger son Dhzokhar (also called Jahar) was severely wounded and in prison, accused of bombing the Boston marathon.
Reni Todashev’s life was changed forever on May 22, when she heard the news that her husband Ibragim had been killed by the FBI during a related interrogation in their Orlando, Florida home.
Ibragim Todashev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev only knew each other from the gym and were not close friends, but Reni travelled to Dagestan on July 31 to visit the Tsarnaevs after burying her love in Chechnya. They had never met before. The Muslim Observer asked Reni what made her decide to visit.
“Tragedy made us a family and, just like I felt that I wanted to be in the courtroom – same here,” she replied. “We cried so much there’s just no more tears left.” She described the Tsarnaevs as a “thoughtful, blessed, loving each other couple.”
“We just prayed for Jahar, and for our boys who were killed by the FBI. [Zubeidat] is a very strong woman and I have learned from her a lot. I am strong but she gave me more power to fight. She’s my family as well. That tragedy connected us. She lives with her husband Anzor. I love them as my parents. That pain they have no one can feel. That pain in their hearts and eyes only Allah knows. They lost one son and another kid in jail for no reason. Worst part no one can do anything but wait. Time is killing,” said Reni, who was working in Atlanta, Georgia at the time of her husband’s murder.
Ibragim came to the US to study. In Russia he was an English translator. He met Reni through a mutual friend in May of 2010, and they got married in Boston in July of 2010.
“We had always dreamed to go home together and we did but in different sections of the plane,” Reni replied sadly. “I was the passenger, he was the baggage.”
“I had problems with shipping the body,” Reni told TMO. “Delta company refused to take my husband’s body. They say it’s a business decision, they can’t jeopardize their reputation. I still found a company who took my husband’s body.”
“At the airport they have marked me when I was getting my boarding pass. Then they took me to search me… of course didn’t find anything. Of course I’m a Muslim widow – too dangerous.”
Todashev’s June 20 funeral was “pretty big,” she said.
Reni’s sister Yana Manukyan told supporters, “Our mom (Ibragim’s mother in law) works for the US Army. She has health problems, she had a  few surgeries and no longer can work for the Army due to her health condition. She has already completed all the documents for quitting the Army, she has few months left before she stops serving. The FBI froze her files her files and is trying to cancel the process, they have cancelled her benefits. FBI is now doing everything to our family to stop us to live a life. They want us to stop Ibragim’s investigation. FBI doesn’t want us to continue fighting to find out the truth of what happened. They want us to forget what happened by shutting down our family with problems. And they think that they will make us to forget what they have done to Ibra. Why is FBI messing with our family? They are making it more obvious they are guilty of murder. This has to stop. They have to give us the autopsy report… they have to give us the money they took from his house… they have to give back the personal stuff that belongs to Reni and Ibragim.”
The FBI took many things from their home: thousands in cash, all their personal identity documents, personal clothing, shoes, all electronics (phones, laptops, iPads), the kitchen table, a decorative sword, saying it’s evidence, “God knows evidence of What,” remarked Yana.
“I’m so not lettin that go,” Reni told TMO.
“They were following Ibragim everyday everywhere he goes, following in civilian cars,” Yana said. “No one was at the house of the murder day. Hussein Taramov came with him but they didn’t let him in. He and another local FBI agent Chris were outside of the apartment 4 hours, from 7:30pm until 11:30pm. Three Boston agents went inside with Ibragim to his house. At 11:30pm a Boston agent came out and told the local agent and Hussein that they can go. Hussein wanted to stay but they told him he can’t even wait in the parking lot.”
“We can only guess what was going on there, until there is an official investigation,” Ibragim’s father, Abdulbaki Todashev said.
The FBI claims that right before they killed him, Todashev was about to confess to an unsolved 2011 triple murder in Boston, but there were no questions raised related to this issue. Ibragim was in Atlanta at the time of the Boston murders, Reni said.
Reni said she and her mother in Savannah, Georgia were also visited by FBI agents that same evening. They were only questioned about Ibragim’s relationship with Tamerlan, who had called him a few days before his death to inquire how Ibragim was doing after knee surgery.
Photos of their home, published in Russian media, [http://kavpolit.com/eksklyuzivnye-fotografii-s-mesta-ubijstva-ibragima-todasheva/]  show blood near the front door. Ibragim was clearly trying to flee when he was killed after several hours of interrogation. His eye was badly bruised and indented, said Reni. FBI agents hit him hard with something before they shot him several times in the heart, one time in the liver and a final “kill shot” to the back of the head.
Reni told Russian Times that there were no shots to the arms or legs. The FBI was clearly trying to kill Ibragim, not to subdue him. The FBI is preventing officials from releasing the autopsy report.
Ibrahim’s father Abdulbaki Todashev called the earlier claims that Ibragim was shot attempting to attack an FBI agent “absurd,” saying four or five police and FBI officers could have easily handled such an attack without needing to kill his son, who was still limping from surgery.
Reni told Russian Times, “I think by killing Ibrahim they make it more suspicious about the bombing incident… They killed one brother Tamerlan, so they need somebody who’s alive, who can speak, so they can tell them what happened, if they was thinking Ibrahim is involved in that, but they strangely killed him, it means they were not trying to see what actually happened… He’s definitely not a witness. He didn’t know anything, but they are trying to connect him with the Boston bombing.”
Meanwhile, the surviving Tsarnaev brother, who didn’t used to practice regular prayers, fasted this Ramadan in prison. “Mama Zubi” told supporters to send him religious books: “Jahar feels better reading something about Islam! It brings his spirit up and helps him to become stronger.”

Monday, August 19, 2013

Khazak Teens Arraigned for Tossing Fireworks in Boston Case

On May 1, 2013, Dias Kadyrbayev, 19, and Azamat Tazhayakov, 19, were charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstructing justice with the intent to impede the Boston Marathon bombing investigation. The two college friends of the surviving bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, are nationals of Kazakhstan who were residing in New Bedford, Massachusetts on student visas. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant US Attorneys Stephanie Siegmann and John Capin under Carmen Ortiz.

The Muslim Observer (i.e. yours truly) was at the Moakley Federal Courthouse for the arraignment on August 13. The boys were brought into the courtroom handcuffed. US Marshalls removed their handcuffs for the hearing. They turned around briefly to meet eyes with family and supporters. The thin young Asians, who are being kept in 24 hour isolation, looked nervous but hopeful in their orange jumpsuits. They confirmed that they understood the charges and said “Not Guilty” in response to both counts. Azamat Tazhayakob's parents and siblings were in the front row. 

Judge Marianne Bowler interrupted US Attorney Siegmann while she was talking, in order to tell the Tazhayakoub family that they can't let the baby crawl all over the courtroom. It seemed unnecessarily abrupt, since she was not making any noise. An older sister took the baby outside. The judge then asked Siegmann to repeat the charges, as they exchanged chummy smiles. Siegmann maintained a light, breezy demeanor as she informed the two teens that they face 25 years in prison plus a $250,000 fine and deportation if found guilty. 

They are accused of throwing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s backpack containing fireworks and a jar of Vasoline into a dumpster and taking his laptop after receiving a text suggesting they go to Tsarnaev’s room to “take what’s there,” around the time his face appeared on TV as a wanted suspect. The FBI claims to have found this backpack, conveniently identified by a UMass Dartmouth homework assignment, in a landfill.

Siegmann announced that government prosecutors have 15-20 witnesses, and that the trial is likely to take 2 weeks. The next court date is an "initial status hearing" on Sept. 26. 

Azamat's mother was crying inconsolably on the way out. An Asian woman who observed the hearing told Azamat's father, "Your son is very strong." Azamat's family doesn't speak English well and was not responding to questions. Diaz Kadyrbayev's father was talking through a Russian translator. Both fathers were very well dressed.  

Azamat’s father, Amir Ismagulov owns oil fields in Kazakhstan. Azamat came to the US to study oil engineering so he could work in the family business. Ismagulov insists his son had no knowledge of Tsarnaev’s alleged role in the bombing.

“The entire family feels that the government is scapegoating them because they are Muslims and foreign students,” Tazhayakov’s attorney, Arkady Bukh told reporters. “He is absolutely not guilty. If he wanted to assist in terrorism, he would have hid the computer."

Kadyrbayev's attorney Robert Stahl described his client as "a law-abiding college student whose only crime was befriending a fellow student who spoke his more comfortable native language."

"We look forward to the evidence eventually proving that Dias did not obstruct justice, nor knowingly or intentionally take evidence from Dzohkhar Tsarnaev's dorm room. The FBI recovered all of the items because of Dias' complete cooperation with their investigation," Stahl said. "Dias Kadyrbayev and his family also grieve for the victims' families and want justice for the victims." 

Yet - even if the defendants did remove fireworks from Tsarnaev’s apartment, what does that prove? Since fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts, it would be reasonable to want them to be gone, if you knew the police was likely to stop by. There has been no evidence or federal agency report citing that the fireworks were used in the bombing but rather, were simply found in the suspect’s room. 

“The fireworks devices allegedly found during the investigation... contain limited quantities of explosive or combustible chemical composition designed to deflagrate (burn) rather than detonate like dynamite, TNT or military explosives,” said Julie Heckman, Executive Director of the American Pyrotechnics Association.

"We believe it is virtually impossible to create the level of destruction and devastation caused in Boston with legitimate consumer fireworks and suspect that the investigation will ultimately point toward other materials being responsible for the creation of the deadly pressure cooker bombs," she concluded.

The two former UMass Dartmouth students were originally detained for immigration violations. They were then questioned for 12 hours over two days by the FBI without a lawyer present. Another friend, Robel Phillipos, who is being tried separately, was charged with lying to the FBI. Phillipos could face up to eight years in jail and a $250,000 fine. 

The original criminal complaint against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is based entirely on an unsubstantiated claim made by an FBI agent - which is why his friends are so important to the prosecution. If government prosecutors can get Tsarnaev’s friends to “cooperate,” they no longer need to present any convincing evidence. When the defendants are Muslims accused of Terrorism, very few juries ever question government claims.

Attorney Carmen Ortiz with the same Judge Bowler convicted Tarek Mehanna based on inflammatory rhetoric. To get around the lack of evidence, the government threatened Mehanna’s friends into becoming cooperating witnesses.

She also prosecuted Rezwan Ferdaus, a US citizen who was entrapped by the FBI and sentenced to 17 years. Because Ortiz intimidated him into accepting a plea bargain, there was no trial and therefore no public evidence to support the charges against him.

Ortiz’s usual gameplay links the accused with a vague global Islamic Conspiracy. Court proceedings are conducted in a racist, demeaning way, with expert witnesses giving false testimony. Evan Kohlmann, who narrated Ortiz’s prosecution of Mehanna and Yassin Aref has already testified to Congress regarding the Boston bombing’s link to “al Qaeda.”

The politically ambitious lead US prosecutor was investigated by Congress for “blatant prosecutorial intimidation” when computer hacker Aaron Swartz committed suicide after Ortiz threatened him with 50+ years in prison and a $4 million fine. Judges have reprimanded her for “overkill” using federal charges. Glenn Greenwald contrasted her predatory prosecution of the young and powerless with the “incredible leniency given by Ortiz's office to large companies and executives accused of serious crimes.” 

Attorney Harlan Protass writes in Slate, “Given the heinous nature of the marathon bombing and the international spotlight on the attack, Ortiz must be under enormous pressure to go after Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov with everything she’s got. The Boston community and local law enforcement are probably encouraging her to do so.”

Friday, August 09, 2013

Mehanna Appeal Hearing Draws Large Crowd

The courtroom was packed and the spillover room was filled, with over fifty supporters observing Dr. Tarek Mehanna’s appeal hearing in Federal court in Boston on July 30, 2013, where Attorney Sabin Willett asked a panel of three judges to throw out Mehanna’s conviction that resulted in a sentence of 17 1/2 years. Mehanna, who is imprisoned at CMU Terre Haute, was not present at the hearing.

Mehanna, who pled not guilty, was found guilty by the jury in 2011 of conspiracy to provide material support for al Qaeda by translating Arabic documents online, and planning to join a terror training camp in Yemen. Mehanna insists he went to Yemen to study Arabic. There is no evidence that he ever picked up a gun or planned anything illegal. The prosecution relied solely on statements by informant Kareem Abuzahra, who was granted immunity by the FBI in exchange for wiretapping and testifying against Mehanna at trial. The government’s case was framed by scouring Mehanna’s computer for evidence that Mehanna had an “obsessive interest” in jihad. 

He had indeed voiced strong political opinions and made some crude jokes via IM chats with his friends online, but Attorney Willett told the Boston Globe, “Our view is that if the government cannot tie the knot between Mehanna and Al Qaeda, this is simply speech, just protected opinion... All he has done is talk a lot, and talk loudly.”

Willet argued in Tuesday’s hearing that government prosecutors prejudiced the jury by showing them a huge number of irrelevant videos such as the World Trade Center explosions, beheading videos, Osama bin Laden, and other widely available images that had nothing to do with Mehanna’s case but which poisoned the trial outcome.

Assistant US attorney Elizabeth Dorsey Collery, who works for prosecutor Carmen Ortiz, claimed that Mehanna had received an email from someone named Murabed, who informed him that al Qaeda was looking for translations, and yet he continued to translate Arabic texts for the Tivian website. 

Willett argued that Mehanna was translating these texts, which were primarily religious texts, out of personal interest. He never even opened that email from Murabed.

The US had used Evan Kohlmann as a trial witness to frame the case as part of a global Islamic conspiracy. “Kohlmann doesn’t use science,” argued Attorney Willett.

Attorney Collery argued, “These were ideological crimes. Mehanna believed that he had a moral obligation to assist al Qaeda and to engage violently against the US in Iraq.”

Judge Selya seemed to scold the prosecutor, saying, “The government grossly overdid it. Stick to the facts.” He acknowledged that overwhelming the jury with evidence, relevant or not, can have a cumulative effect, causing prejudice “to show intent.”

Collery continued to insist that Mehanna was not as he claimed, “a scholarly man in search of enlightenment” but that he worked as a “propagandist for al Qaeda... he was radicalized and radicalized others.” 

Mehanna was convicted only on the Yemen travel related indictments. The propaganda charges were dropped. However, the conviction was based on spillover arguments from the irrelevant evidence. The prosecution relied heavily on mention of IM chats, open to interpretation. The defense pointed out that many of these statements, such as the comment about being “al Qaeda’s media wing” were followed with LOL, Lots of Laughs. These chats were never quoted verbatim but paraphrased by the prosecutors.

Judge Thompson asked, “Was the inflammatory evidence necessary (for conviction)?”

The prosecution then engaged in a long discussion about legal technicalities regarding permissible evidence. 

The snickering of some of the journalists at the end of the hearing revealed prejudice.

Mehanna supporters gathered in fellowship after the hearing, including a technician for a Walgreens pharmacy, who often conversed with Tarek at the Worcester Islamic Center since Mehanna was a pharmacist at CVS. “We used to compare notes about all the nice little old ladies,” he said. “Some even brought us baked goods!”

Kate Bonner-Jackson, an organizer of the Tarek Mehanna support committee said, “Tarek was vocal about the right to self defense of US invaded people.” She noted the American double standard when discussing self defense when it comes to Muslims, mentioning the recent Zimmerman acquittal. 

“We are looking for justice,” Ahmed Mehanna, Tarek’s father told the Muslim Observer. Smiling, Tarek’s father said, “The judge vented my anger. He vindicated me!” He was referring to Selya’s comments during the hearing, where the judge seemed to empathize as a father: 

“What could they find if they looked through three years of my three young sons’ electronic records? What disgusting pictures did they look at? What gross movies did they watch? What kinds of things did they joke about with their friends? What topics did they flirt with?” 

We agreed that the defense lawyer had a strong, calm tone of voice while the prosecutor’s voice was noticeably shaky. 

“Because she has no case!” Ahmed Mehanna exclaimed. “She was just dancing in circles around the issues.”

Mauri Saalakhan of Peace and Justice Foundation said he was not overly optimistic as “98% of first appeals are denied. But there will be more appeals.”

Tarek Ismail of Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute is working on a study of 35 government prosecutions of Muslims. Ismail said Mehanna’s appellate brief is over 100 pages long and raises many issues. During the hearing, each side had only 20 minutes to talk, so they focused on the prejudicial evidence that was rampant during the trial. Photos that were cached or downloaded on Mehanna’s computer were used as evidence, whether or not he ever opened them.

“They argued over whether evidence was prejudicial or probative (proving the case). An overwhelming amount of evidence that is not entirely related was presented instead of clear evidence of crime. The government was able to stronghold the jury because of so much evidence used as emotional manipulation. The cached computer files were used to construct a story.” 

Activist Laila Murad added, “So much is speech protected under the 1st Amendment: opinions, translations of public documents.”  

Younger brother Tamer Mehanna told the Muslim Observer, “Attorney Liz went to some liberty in interpreting "between the lines" of the actual statements made in the conversation. The way the government set it up is as follows: typically, the burden of proof is on the government to establish that he went there for violent reasons. The government found a workaround to that tall task by finding Tarek's friends and threatening them into becoming cooperating witnesses for the government, and recruited the services of Evan Kohlmann to tie it all together into a tidy narrative. Once it accomplished this, it had those cooperating witnesses agree that there was a conspiracy to go to Yemen for violent training, had Kohlmann "validate" the theory behind the conspiracy, and that Tarek was a part of it. Because this established Tarek as part of this conspiracy, the burden of proof now gets laid on the defense to prove that Tarek was not part of this conspiracy. 

“This is part of the government's tactic-- it creates a frame within a frame within a frame so that your task of defending yourself becomes that much more complex, until you agree to cut a deal just to end it.  Needless to say, we'll never look for that exit in this case.”

Friday, August 02, 2013

Boston Bombing Mystery: Leaked Photos Prove Police Lied


boston-bomber_2622293bIt is deeply offensive and un-American to slander someone as a bomber or terrorist without any evidence, long before the trial. Assuming someone guilty before proven innocent threatens the Constitutional rights of all Americans who at some point might be accused of a crime.
It is naive to assume good will on the part of government prosecutors, especially in these fake “Islamic terror” cases, knowing how much foul play has gone on in courtrooms especially over the past few years that involved the FBI and high ups in the government misrepresenting evidence and engaging in illegitimate smear campaigns. It appears that the government’s purpose for putting a Muslim on trial in America is rarely to establish the facts of the case but to create deliberately misleading narrative for the purpose of bolstering a political agenda that most Americans would not agree with if they knew the facts.
At this point there is zero proof being offered that the Tsarnaevs were responsible for the Boston marathon bombings, and even less convincing evidence that if they did, that their motivation was religion. That’s all part of a stereotypical, false narrative-with-an-agenda the media promotes, similar to Nazi journalism about Jews in the 1940s. While the agenda is unclear here in the US, the narrative is spectacular.
We have countless unverified statements made by FBI and Boston police to the media. These media claims are then used as evidence in court. This is standard operating procedure for a frame up. Many of these claims are obviously implausible, like the “confession letter” that mysteriously appeared inside the boat nearly 3 months after the suspect’s capture. The entire world is laughing their heads off about that one.
Now we have photographic proof that a member of the Boston police brazenly lied on TV saying Tsarnaev had a throat wound. Leaked photos of his capture on April 19 clearly show that the young man had a head injury and his hand was badly mangled but his larynx was fine – there was no blood dripping down his neck.
Photos leaked to the internet that were taken at the hospital clearly show a straight slash about 5 inches long down the side of his neck near the ear, but his larynx is just fine. Why was the public told he could not speak? And what happened to him afterwards?
At the court hearing on July 10, “his eye was almost completely swollen shut, his cheek was very swollen – I’m pretty sure these were on the left side of his face- and one side of his mouth was droopy.. His mouth kind of reminded me of when someone has a stroke… the swelling wasn’t bruised from what I could see,” an onlooker told TMO.
There are many questions remaining. The marathon bombing took place April 15, 2013. On April 21, government prosecutors submitted a motion to the court to seal Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s case. The judge granted the motion. On the same day they submitted their criminal complaint under seal. This all took place on a Sunday, oddly enough. On April 22, Tsarnaev was handed over to US Marshals by the FBI and was charged with using a “weapon of mass destruction” and property damage resulting in death. He nodded in response to the judge a couple of times, then he said “No” once. The case was then unsealed, but many files are missing from the docket.
A probable cause hearing was scheduled for May 30, but on April 20, it was rescheduled to July by agreement of both parties “in view of the complex factual and legal issues present in this case and the need for adequate time to obtain and review evidence.” The Federal Grand Jury indicted the suspect on June 28, so the probable cause hearing never happened.
What is bizarre is that the killing of MIT police officer Sean Collier was added to the multiple grave charges, even though Cambridge police never claimed the murder was related to the bombing suspects. Why was the cop-killing charge thrown in later?
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s friends and family all describe him as a friendly, laid back guy and without exception, they are universally confused by government accusations that he bombed the Boston marathon. The predatory media could not find one person to say a bad thing about him. Meanwhile, on June 9, police found someone who actually fits the profile of a psycho killer.
27-year-old Daniel Morley “had all the materials needed to build a pressure-cooker bomb before this kind of weapon was used in the Boston Marathon attack in April,” according to comments made by the man’s own mother in a recently unsealed police affidavit.
“Police also said they found a shoe box with the head of a decapitated bird, dismantled cell phones, flex cuff restraints, black gun powder, and a burnt green stuffed animal that had been stabbed repeatedly,” wrote Tim McLaughlin for Reuters. The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force said it is investigating. But the only investigation that has been reported is whether or not the man has any ties to the Tsarnaevs.
All we know for sure about the Tsarnaevs is that they were fleeing from the police, shortly after their faces appeared on TV. Lightly armed, Tamerlan engaged in a shootout with police, which was filmed from a window. The brothers appeared vulnerable and crouched behind a car on the side of the street. Then, there were some loud explosions and smoke filled the air. But there was no property damage, no shrapnel, nor any reported injury from these explosions, just some marks on the pavement on the opposite side of the street – not where the Tsarnaevs were crouched. When the smoke cleared, Tamerlan was dead and Dzhokhar was on the run.
It will be interesting to see if government prosecutor Carmen Ortiz will provide proof that Dzhokar Tsarnaev bombed the marathon, or if she will resort to the cheap tactic of using “secret evidence” against the accused. Other than wild media stories about the manhunt that resulted in the cities of Boston, Cambridge and Watertown being shut down under martial law, all the public has to go on is surveillance camera footage showing Dzhokhar and Tamerlan walking peacefully through the crowd at the Boston marathon wearing light backpacks. The criminal complaint is based solely on the affidavit of one FBI agent, Daniel Genck, who, based on video footage that no one else has seen, claims that the men were carrying large heavy backpacks and that they set their backpacks down prior to the explosions.
The public should demand to see a real investigation of all the actors in this drama, not just the accused. The FBI should not be simultaneously investigating a case and framing a case for the prosecution. That’s a conflict of interest.
Jon Roland of the Constitution Society wrote, “The Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been charged with multiple federal offenses, but none of them are authorized by the U.S. Constitution… If the federal courts were constitutionally compliant, they would be compelled to dismiss them all, and let the State of Massachusetts prosecute him under its laws.”