Thursday, July 18, 2013

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Faces Accusers

Family members of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev leave the federal courthouse following the arraignment of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Boston, Massachusetts July 10, 2013. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty to committing the worst mass-casualty attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, a crime that could bring the death penalty. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
There was “pin-drop silence” in the courtroom as the surviving Boston marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev took the stand during his first pre-trial hearing on July 10, 2013. A crying baby held by Tsarnaev’s sister pierced the silence. Watching the trial were about 30 people representing the victims’ families, as well as a row of family members and supporters of the defendant. The grand jury indictment by the FBI in coordination with federal and local authorities charged Tsarnaev with 30 counts of federal crimes including using a weapon of mass destruction and killing a police officer.
Represented by Federal attorneys Miriam Conrad and William Fick with input from Attorney Judy Clarke and Prof. David Clarke, Dzhokhar pled “Not Guilty” to all charges. Reporter Pam Gelly describes: 

“Assistant US Attorney William Weinreb… continues reading through groups of charges: possession and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence resulting in death; carjacking resulting in serious bodily injury; bombing of a place of public use resulting in death.
“Not Guilty,” Tsarnaev says again. More charges are read.
“Not Guilty,” he says and rubs his mouth.
“Not Guilty,” clenching his hands together.
“Not Guilty.” He says it seven times.
The judge explains that the United States will bring 80 to 100 witnesses to the trial. It will take 3 to 4 months, starting on September 23 at 10 am.”
The hearing was presided over by Judge Marianne Bowler.  Time will tell if Tsarnaev will settle for a plea bargain or if he will fight for his innocence in court. If the case goes to trial, Judge George O’Toole, who convicted Tarek Mehanna to 17.5 years for “material support for terrorism” on account of internet speech, will be presiding. Attorney General Eric Holder will decide whether Dzhokhar will get the death penalty, if convicted.
According to witnesses, Tsarnaev, who wore an orange jumpsuit, kept turning around to look at his family and friends in a row behind him. At one point he waved at his sisters, whereupon one of them burst into tears. He appeared to be heavily medicated and not entirely aware of the seriousness of the proceedings. Friends say he was not acting like himself. According to his wrestling teammates Tsarnaev, who went to high school in the US and was thoroughly Americanized, spoke in court with an uncharacteristically heavy Russian accent that his friends called “weird.”
A former schoolmate and wrestling teammate said Tsarnaev looked tired and “beat up.”
“His face was swollen on one side. He looked exhausted.”
Brittany Gillis, who went to UMass Dartmouth at the same time as Tsarnaev, was inside the courtroom. “It was very nerve wracking,” she said. “His family was crying as soon as he walked in. And the victims’ families were very upset. You could just tell they were upset just by seeing him. His family was crying and he kept looking back at his family. It seemed like he was very nervous.”
A small rally in support of Dzhokhar Tsnarnaev and suspicious of the government gathered outside the courthouse. At least one protester wore an “Anonymous” mask.
There is certainly reason to doubt the veracity of government accusations – and if Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev really did use homemade bombs to kill and injure hundreds of Boston marathon spectators, there is good reason to suspect FBI and CIA involvement. Some years back, when Dzhokhar’s brother Tamerlan applied for a travel visa to visit relatives, Russian authorities reportedly asked the CIA to investigate the Muslim family, whose female members had recently started wearing hijab. The brothers had met with the FBI multiple times in the two years before the marathon bombing. Their mother Zubeida Tsarnaev, who was also reportedly on a government watchlist, said the FBI was closely scrutinizing her son’s online activity. 
It will be interesting to see if government prosecutor Carmen Ortiz will provide proof of Tsarnaevs’ criminal wrongdoings, 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 his brother Tamerlan walking peacefully through the crowd at the Boston marathon wearing light backpacks.
All we know for sure is that the police shot the brothers multiple times, killing Tamerlan while he was handcuffed in police custody, and severely wounding the unarmed Dzhokhar in the process of capturing him.
Circulating on Twitter is a rumor stating that, according to the wife of a Boston police officer, “all the cops took turns beating the crap out of him… jumped on his chest and everything.”
The 19 year old immigrant was aggressively interrogated for 18 hours and pressured to confess without a lawyer present after arriving at the hospital with multiple bullet wounds upon his arrest. It looks like someone broke his arm rather recently, as he appeared in court with a new cast on his arm. However, the defense was not permitted to discuss anything about police brutality.
In an interesting twist of events, the proceedings of the secret hearing were illegally videotaped by someone standing behind the court camera and aired by a television station in Russia. Grainy cell phone photos from inside the courtroom showing the thin, young, pensive looking man seated next to his lawyer, were also circulated widely online via social media.
The intense international interest in this court case is unique for a US “Muslim terrorist” prosecution in that there are so many vocal advocates insisting on his innocence and demanding a fair trial – balancing the huge number of unquestioningly pro-establishment American citizens ready for another public hanging of a foreign Muslim.
This time, the public wants to know what’s really going on. If the Boston marathon bombing was really simply carried out by two youths playing with homemade explosives, why is that being treated as a federal terrorism case rather than a local violent crime under the jurisdiction of Boston police?
Did the Tsarnaevs do it?  If yes, they probably did not act alone. It is important not to let this kid become a scapegoat to cover up for a deeper government conspiracy.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Write a Letter This Ramadan

Letter writing has become a lost art. In today’s world of texting and emailing, a letter received by postal mail, written on paper with pen, is something really special. Fewer and fewer children these days even know how to write in cursive, and thus have trouble reading the sometimes very personal script of their grandparents and great-grandparents.
Practicing our penmanship is only one of many reasons why we should encourage our family members to keep in touch with loved ones this Ramadan, and also to initiate contact with those Muslims who are isolated in US prisons.
National Coalition To Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF) has initiated a letter writing campaign for the second year in a row for Ramadan. Part of the mission of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms is to educate the public about the erosion of civil and political freedoms in our society, and the abuses of prisoners within the U.S. criminal justice system especially after 9/11. Many individuals have been the victims of government prosecutorial overreach and pre-emptive prosecutions based on thought crimes, entrapment, and manufactured charges.
Last year was a big success with even more letters being requested from the community. “As a result of your letters, many prisoners received communication with the outside world for the first time. Let’s write a short note to tell someone you care, to tell them that they matter, and that they are not forgotten. Let them know they will always be part of our Community and that they are in our prayers. It’s an easy process that takes only a few minutes, but would mean so much to the prisoners and their loved ones.”
NCPCF also organized a Ramadan gift program, sending $100 to the poorest prisoners’ commissaries, enabling them to buy things for Ramadan like dates, honey, books, and things they need. Those who wish to donate or to participate in the letter writing program should contact Since there are hundreds of Muslim prisoners on the list, greeting them all is more work than one person can reasonably promise to do. Writing to the prisoners needs to be a community activity. Why is this so important?
Sharmin Sadequee of NCPCF explains: “Believing the media and government, the larger Muslim American community isolates and ostracizes Muslim political prisoners and their families and treats them as “other”. Different sections of the Muslim community in US have internalized the meta-narratives of our government about their own community, faith and religion, and abandoned the prisoners and their families. But, Muslims have a duty to help prisoners according to traditions of our prophet (pbuh). ” She states:
“We have received many letters from prisoners saying they did not know that there were people and organizations in the US that care about Muslim prisoners, although many Muslims from Europe have been writing to prisoners in the US.”
NCPCF is looking for volunteers from around the country to organize letter writing activities and events in their own community, which would be done as a group. The volunteers will receive pre-addressed envelopes as many as they want. Some people request 100 others request 200 or 50 or 75.
The paintball man, Ismail Royer wrote to NCPCF: “Greetings…I am very grateful for the money your organization sent last Ramadan. It was the first time I’d had that much money in my account for many years and it made Ramadan that much more special.”
TMO asked Ghaliyaa Haq of why a similar campaign does not exist for the detainees at Guantanamo, who are on hunger strike for freedom or death. She explains that “the reason no one has a specific to Guantanamo letter writing campaign is because the prisoners almost never get the mail. I have never heard of a single prisoner getting mail from anyone but their lawyers and very rarely a wife or mother.  I don’t really ask people to send to Guantanamo because they simply don’t give it to them.”
The current update is “they just decided that despite an attempted lawsuit they will go ahead and force feed during Ramadan – albeit at night instead of daytime.”
There are many things going on that are worse than the lack of mail.
“There are some seriously needy prisoners here in the US though. I mean young people who have no one at all. There are women too like that. Sr. Fatima (Colleen LaRose) has no one. Jamie Ramirez is the other one… I am sure you are aware of the fact that once a prisoner is convicted CAIR and places like that vanish as quickly as possible. The prisoner is almost always left to his own devices then,” concludes Haq.
In May 2013, the female relatives of political prisoners organized a demonstration at the Department of Justice in DC to protest how the DOJ turned their relatives into political prisoners and buried them alive in federal prisons. It was the first time women relatives from around the country, whose loved ones have been snatched away from them in preemptive prosecution cases, came together to demand justice for their loved ones.
“It was historic and beginning of a movement like the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina,” Sadequee told TMO.
“Unfortunately people do not know enough about what is going on in their own country. People are being imprisoned for crimes that they did not do…. They are basically being framed. They’re being put into prison for feeding hungry children,” said a prisoner’s daughter during the rally,” reported PressTV.
Attorney Steve Downs told TMO: “NCPCF has a data base of over 800 cases that includes all of the preemptive prosecution cases which we are following. We have determined that about 90% of the cases which the government has listed as “terrorism” cases are either preemptive prosecutions or have “elements” of preemptive prosecution (in which the government prosecuted on fake or manufactured charges individuals who seemed suspicious but who had not committed any crime). 
Downs continues: “Many innocent prisoners were abandoned by their Mosque or Community or family following conviction, and are living in isolated conditions that amount to torture. Just the human contact of a letter can make all the difference. This Ramadan, we should do what we can to keep up their spirits and hope until a solution to our civil rights crisis can be found and the prisoners can be freed.”

Friday, July 05, 2013

Dzhokahr Tsarnaev Claims Innocence

Even as a federal grand jury returned a 30-count indictment against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for his alleged role in the Boston Marathon bombing, this week, supporters are gathering messages and poems to wish him a happy 20th birthday on July 22, which he will most likely spend at Devens Federal Medical Center in Ayers, Massachusetts, where he is now. The allegations against the young immigrant from Dagestan are being doubted world wide, and suspicions of an FBI frame up are growing. The addition of “using a firearm to intentionally kill Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Police Officer Sean Collier” to the list of charges against Tsarnaev is certainly odd, since previous police reports stated that the shooting incident was unrelated to the bombing suspects. 
“This indictment is the result of exemplary cooperation between federal prosecutors and a wide range of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to investigate the horrific attacks on the Boston Marathon two months ago,” said Attorney General Eric Holder, who did not mention the heavy Israeli involvement in the aftermath of the bombing, investigation, and televised fundraising campaign for Homeland Security, where Israeli agents were treated deferentially by the Boston Police Department.
NBC news reported: “Under normal circumstances, the government must issue an indictment within 30 days of arrest, which would have been May 19 in Tsarnaev’s case, but no indictment had been issued.”
A probable cause hearing had been scheduled for July 2. The purpose of this hearing would have been in order to determine whether the government has a strong enough case to continue legal proceedings. Because of the grand jury indictment, the case will move directly to arraignment and trial.
Further adding to public skepticism is the FBI execution-style shooting of Ibragim Todashev in Orlando Florida last month. Todashev was someone who knew Dzhokhar’s brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed by Boston police after being arrested and stripped naked. The FBI claimed that just before they killed Todashev, he was about to sign a confession stating that he and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were guilty of three bizarre murders that took place in Waltham, Massachusetts in 2011, where the victims were found with their throats slashed and their bodies sprinkled with marijuana. Most people assumed the victims, who were local marijuana dealers, were killed by the police, angry about the recent decriminalization of marijuana in Massachusetts, who wanted to send some kind of warning to marijuana dealers.
Another bizarre story that the FBI fed to the news media just this week – over two months after the event, is that the Tsarnaev wrote a confession message with a pen on the inside of the boat where he was hiding and was eventually captured after being shot at 200 times by the police and miraculously survived. According to CBS news, the alleged note said the bombings were retribution for what the U.S. did to Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq, and called the Boston victims collateral damage in the way Muslims have been in the U.S.-driven wars. “When you attack one Muslim, you attack all Muslims,” the note allegedly says.
A member of the Free Jahar Movement, Cindy Chapman, told TMO she doesn’t buy that story. “If he was injured as he is – and was shot in his left hand – And he is left handed. He came out of the boat holding his left arm kinda funny. And the way he was pictured laying in the boat he was laying on his right side. I guess his right side is also hurt I am not really sure. But he could NOT have not written it. And why did they NOT find that note or notes sooner. I mean really why are they just coming out now with it? I mean like really – just before the trial?”
While Tsarnaev is not allowed to discuss his case with anyone except his lawyer, his mother Zubeidat Tsarnaeva told the Associated Press that her son told her he is innocent. “I could just feel that he was being driven crazy by the unfairness that happened to us, that they killed our innocent Tamerlan.” She also told reporters that Tamerlan called her just before his death saying “The police are chasing us and shooting at us” and told her, “I love you, Mama.”
Tsarnaev’s supporters have taken to the internet to demand a fair trial. The Dzokhar Tsarnaev Jahar Facebook page, which has more than 8,000 members, states that the 19-year-old’s “life has been stolen and has been made into a public object of hate, created by the inaccurate reports by the media.” His fans are also twittering using the hashtag #freejahar and handles that include @FreeJaha @Fighting4Jahar and @PrayForJaharr. Some news reports claim that young people are even getting tattooed with his name.
A rapper named Beacorn wrote a rap song called “Free Jahar Tsar” that goes, “A boy with his cap backwards, hoodie down and white bag just / walking behind his brother past surveillance cameras / He wasn’t even tryna be hidin’ his facial appearance / And  that’s all it took to take his rights as an everyday American? / Besides the bags shown blown to bits were both black / so how does that account as hard evidence after the fact?”
The birthday messages being collected from all over the world for the young man – mainly from strangers – are deeply moving – full of prayers, intense love, encouragement, telling him not to give up and that he’s not alone, with unshakable faith in his innocence.  Many people, when they learned about Tsarnaev’s ordeal, realized that if this could happen to him it could happen to any young Muslim, and it immediately made them decide to start practicing their religion and in some cases, convert to Islam. Someone in Boston wrote, “I’m so glad you opened my eyes, Jahar. I’m so glad I snapped out of being brainwashed by the media.”
Tsarnaev will need that level of support to spread to the wider population if he is going to receive anything that even resembles a fair trial. All Americans should want Tsarnaev to get a fair trial, to make sure they got the right guy – because if he’s not the marathon bomber, then whoever actually did it is still at large.

Monday, July 01, 2013

CMU Prisoner Shifa Sadequee’s Sister Speaks to TMO

As a little boy, Sharmin’s brother often reminded her to not to step on bugs. As a young man, he worked with his sister Sonali at Raksha, an Atlanta-based organization dedicated to the eradication of violence against women. The US-born Bangladeshi, who had attended a private Islamic high school in Canada, used his knowledge of classical Arabic to translate ancient Islamic texts into English for the former Tibyan Institute website. (The current website appears to be run by US government agents.) Some of the religious opinions that he translated he agreed with, and some he did not agree with. Some of the scholarly work he translated analyzed the concept of ‘jihad.’
Shifa engaged in frank and sometimes wild chat discussions with his online friends. The teenagers who connected through this website discussed Freemasonry and the New World Order as well as their obligations as Muslim men.
Shifa’s mother, Shirin Sadequee said her son was just “talking” about jihad and exploring ideas with other youth.
Shifa Sadequee’s sister Sharmin told TMO that the online chats “consisted of teenagers discussing religious and spiritual matters and opinions of scholars on various issues, political comments, wars abroad, etc.” The mostly South Asian teenagers “used cultural idioms, slang terms that a lot of second generation immigrant youths use in their conversations, but the government interpreted a lot of those phrases and conversations as ‘code’ words.”
“He was not at all planning to join Taliban. He was living in Bangladesh in 2001, when the war in Afghanistan broke out. He emailed some websites wanting to know how he could help the Muslims in Afghanistan. Which the government interpreted as ‘joining’ the Taliban.”
In August 2005, Shifa was detained and questioned at Kennedy International Airport in New York on his way to Bangladesh to get married.
On April 17, 2006, twelve days after his wedding, Shifa was disappeared by Bangladeshi authorities. At a press conference in Bangladesh, his father begged for help from the public in finding his missing son. The Bangladeshi government kept silent.
The FBI brought him to New York aboard a “secret” CIA rendition aircraft via Alaska, stripping off his clothes and wrapping him in clear plastic wrap. FBI agent Michael Sherck requested the warrant for Shifa’s arrest.
In New York, Shifa was charged with making a “false statement” to the FBI but the case was later dropped. In August, 2006, the US government transferred Shifa to Atlanta Federal Penitentiary on “terrorism” related charges. No government agencies communicated about his arrest to his father and wife in Bangladesh or to his family in Atlanta. Shifa was held for three years in solitary confinement without trial, during which time he was pressured to testify against his friends in exchange for a plea bargain. He refused.
Sharmin told TMO, “When my brother was arrested, Atlanta Muslim community leaders and members, when they went to talk with the US Attorneys to learn more about the case, the US Attorneys acknowledged that my brother and his friend did not do anything, but that they really needed to prosecute someone to let others know not to talk or do things like these youth.”
Shifa was targeted due to online association with FBI targets including the Toronto 12. Tarek Mehanna was translating for the same online publication and they knew each other from online. There is no evidence that there was any plan to do anything illegal.
Sadequee was charged with supporting a foreign terrorist organization, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), a group struggling to liberate Muslim-dominated Kashmir from India––although LET was not designated as a terrorist organization in the U.S. in 2005 and did not even exist as an organization then.
““The LET… one of the terrorist organizations that they’re accusing him of beginning to intend to start becoming a part of, didn’t even exist at the time and also was not registered in the U.S. as a foreign terrorist organization until two weeks after Shifa was arrested,” stated Atlanta activist Stephanie Guilloud.
He was also accused of sending videos of tourist sites in Washington, D.C. to his online friends, who supposedly were in contact with LET. However, the government could not demonstrate a single conversation or sentence from the online chats about plans or plots for attacking these sites.
Evan Kohlmann testified as an “expert” witness at Sadequee’s trial. Kohlmann, who is connected with Steve Emerson and Israel lobbies, has a history of giving false testimony about Muslim political groups – at Yassin Aref’s trial he absurdly claimed that Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda and Kurdish separatists were working together.
The religious debates of teenagers were taken out of context by the government to paint them as terrorists and to preemptively prosecute them. Yet the actual chats remained classified as “secret evidence” and were not presented to the jury.
FBI agents testified that online chat conversations by Sadequee discussed robbing people at ATMs and selling marijuana to raise travel money. Sadequee cross examined FBI Agent James Allen regarding the conversations, pointing out that the term “LOL” (laugh out loud) indicated that the conversations were not serious. The judge allowed Allen to interpret evidence which he, as a fact witness, should not have done.
“When ethnocentrism guides in the making and application of the law, jurors and courts/judges as products of culture and bound by culture and politics will always find certain groups ‘guilty.’” said Sharmin.
Shifa was convicted on August 13th, 2009 and sentenced to 17 years. He was also sentenced to an additional 30 years probation, during which time he cannot access the Internet. He spent some time at the CMU in Marion, Illinois before being moved to the CMU in Terre Haute, Indiana in May 2012.
“Within 24 hours of my brother’s conviction, the Director of the US Attorney Office in GA, David Nahmias, was promoted as a Judge to the Georgia Supreme Court– it was headline news in the local media the morning after my brother’s verdict.  And a few years later the lead US Attorney in the case was also placed as a judge in the Fulton County System. Not sure what kind of promotion the FBI agents received,” Sharmin told TMO.
Community organizing played a large role in Shifa’s relatively light sentencing, who was faced with up to 60 years and defended himself without help of a lawyer. 2,900 people wrote letters to the judge asking for leniency. Sharmin explains:
“From the very beginning it was the progressive non-Muslim community and the queer community who stood by us. And, communities that were active around Imam Jamil Al Amin’s case and campaign were very supportive and understood how my brother was targeted for his spiritual and political beliefs and how the case against him was an attack on his First Amendment Rights because he was brown and Muslim.
“This attack was not only on Shifa who is a critical thinker, or on our family, but it was also a violence on the whole community and our ability to think critically about our beliefs, practices, politics, and the way of the world. So, our community-based cross-racial and interfaith alliance helped us to create collective resiliency to respond to the violence of the War on Terror.
“Of course this case was in 2006, and a lot of Muslims in America then believed only the ‘bad’ Muslims are under surveillance and get targeted but now we know this is not true. Things are improving, however. I think more people are realizing keeping quiet is not going to take them anywhere.”