No Separate Justice Launches Human Rights Campaign

By Adas, Jane | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March/April 2014 | Go to article overview

No Separate Justice Launches Human Rights Campaign


Adas, Jane, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


No Separate Justice, an important new public education initiative, was launched in New York on Jan. 7. On one of the coldest nights on record, scores turned out to hear a panel discussion about a most pressing human rights issue: the treatment of Muslim Americans in the U.S. federal criminal justice system. Because of government secrecy and media neglect, few Americans are aware of what is happening to their fellow citizens. Hence the urgent necessity for this campaign.

Jeanne Theoharis, political science professor at Brooklyn College, chaired the panel discussion. When Fahad Hashmi, one of her former honors students, was arrested in 2006, she recalled, the faculty was "instructed not to say anything." Gradually family members, colleagues and friends did begin talking and writing about individual cases, but it was lonely work. A year ago they decided to join together to build a bigger campaign in order to put the issue before the public. Noting that most of the greatest injustices in American history have been legal-dispossession of American Indians, slavery, and the internment of Japanese Americans during WW II-Theoharis stressed that it is time to say, "what has happened within the law needs to be changed."

Liliana Segura facilitated a first step to open up the media when The Nation, where she was an editor, began a monthly column on "America After 9/11" in order to "provide a systematic look at the patterns of civil rights abuses in the United States' domestic 'war on terror.'" To further reach the public, No Separate Justice will stage monthly vigils outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in lower Manhattan, "our local site of inhumanity." In a restrictive section of the MCC, Muslim terror suspects are kept in solitary confinement, often for years, while awaiting trial. They are never allowed outdoors and are not allowed outside contact, even with their lawyers.

Pardiss Kebriaei, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, described another detention site, the U.S. Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colorado (ADX Florence). It is surrounded by fields and a duck pond, but inside, two flights down, some 400 people are kept in tiny cells 22 hours a day, with human contact only when they are being shackled. No journalist, she continued, has ever been able to visit ADX Florence, nor may the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez.

Family members and friends continue the struggle year after year. The heart of the evening was when they described what happened to someone they love.

Fahad Hashmi

The Hashmi family moved from Pakistan to Queens in 1982, when Faisal was four and Fahad was three. 9/11 happened when Fahad was a political science student at Brooklyn College. He decided to write his senior honors thesis on the treatment of Muslims in America. Faisal warned his brother against the topic, but Fahad replied, "I am an American and I have these rights."

Upon graduating in 2003, Fahad went to London to pursue a master's degree in international relations. While there, Faisal explained, a Pakistani acquaintance, Mohammed Junaid Babar, stayed for two weeks in Fahad's student apartment. Fahad did not know that Babar had been arrested in the U.S. two years earlier, charged with providing material support for terrorist organizations, and had agreed to cooperate with the government for a reduced sentence. In 2006, having completed his M.A., Fahad was arrested at London's Heathrow airport under U.S. indictment. The charges were for material support-in Babar's luggage had been ponchos and waterproof socks to be delivered to Pakistan.

In 2007, Fahad was the first U.S. citizen to be extradited under the new post-9/11 laws. He was immediately placed in solitary confinement in the MCC in lower Manhattan and held there for three years before his trial. In the sixth month, Fahad was placed under Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), designed to intensify isolation by, for example, monitoring even attorney/client communications and placing anyone having any contact with the prisoner under gag orders. …

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