Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Day of Decision for Two Young Muslim Men


Please take a moment to read the following article written by Human Rights Activist and author Mauri' Saalakhan about  Shifa and Haris' sentence hearing. 

Thank you.


December 4, 2009

The Day of Decision for Two Young Muslim Men

It's been four months since Ehsanul Islam Sadequee (aka, Shifa), an American born Muslim with roots in Bangladesh, was convicted of four conspiracy counts in an Atlanta courthouse for allegedly "aiding terrorist groups" and plotting to support "violent jihad." Sadequee's codefendant in the case, Syed Haris Ahmed, was also convicted two months earlier on one count of conspiring to support terrorism in the U.S. and abroad.

The government's case against these two young men was based entirely on a new legal monstrosity called preemptive prosecution. It is important to note that U.S. authorities never considered either defendant an imminent threat to the United States of America or any other country!

The crux of the government's case against Sadequee and Ahmed was the religious expression of Muslim teenagers, manipulated in a way to paint them as (potentially) dangerous (wannabe) terrorists plotting to do harm to the United States and its allies.

In my years as a human rights advocate, I've witnessed many cases which reveal the terribly gross disparities of justice – based on race, class, and now religion; so many, in fact, that it sometimes numbs the senses. The avalanche of terrorism conspiracy cases involving Muslims (primarily young Muslim males between the ages of 18 and 35), post 9/11, are prime examples of such disparities.

For those who might dismiss this argument as an emotion-laced, partisan, exaggeration – allow me to present the following comparative case study.

An article appeared on September 23, 2009, in the Metro Section of The Washington Post newspaper captioned, "Teen to Plead Guilty in Bombmaking Case." Both the teen in question, Collin McKenzie-Gude, now 19, and his codefendant, Patrick Yevsukov, 18, are about the same ages that Sadequee and Ahmad were when they committed their "crimes."

The case against Mckenzie-Gude and Yevsukov broke open in July 2008, when an aunt of Yevsukov became concerned about their behavior and reported those concerns to the police.

According to The Washington Post, when the police searched the home of McKenzie-Gude, "They found military style rifles (along with armor-piercing bullets); two shotguns; various chemicals, switches, pipes and other materials that can be used to make bombs; a map of Camp David marked with the presidential motorcade route; and a document that appeared to describe how to kill someone at 200 meters."

In a related report a week later in The Gazette newspaper ("Teen pleads guilty to possessing destructive device," 9/30/09), results of the police raid also included a school faculty list and two bulletproof vests.

Interestingly, according to The Washington Post, prosecutors never stated in court what they thought the teenagers intentions were. The Gazette reports U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein as stating, "We cannot know for certain what Collin McKenzie-Gude would have done if law enforcement had not acted."

In January of this year, Yevsukov plead guilty to two counts of manufacture or possession of a destructive device, one count of un-authorized access to a computer, and one count of theft of less than $100, in STATE COURT. In September McKenzie-Gude plead guilty to possession of a destructive device in federal court.

Federal prosecutors reportedly said sentencing guidelines call for McKenzie-Gude to serve five to six years in prison, a sentence the young man's lawyer, Steven Kupferberg criticized as "overkill," and vowed to contest. The sentencing for McKenzie-Gude is expected to take place on January 7, 2010.

Prosecutors on the other hand depicted Sadequee and Ahmad as dangerous terrorist wannabes who needed to be stopped before they took action. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert McBurney argued, "The goal is to catch a terrorist before he flies a plane into the building, to stop a terrorist before he gets too far. No government is obligated to wait until the fuse is lit."

While legal proceedings for Yevsukov and McKenzie-Gude will last about a year and a half from start to finish, those for Ahmad and Sadequee will run three years and eight months in duration, by the time of their sentencing on December 14. (The latter have been imprisoned the entire time.)

And while Yevsukov faces up to four years of imprisonment when sentenced, and McKenzie-Gude faces five to six years; Ahmad faces up to 15 years of imprisonment, and Sadequee (aka, Shifa) is confronting the possibility of 60 years!

What is the major difference between the accused in these two contrasting cases? Two are young, white, non-Muslim males from (comparatively speaking) well to do circumstances, formally accused of possessing destructive devices; while the other two are brown-skinned Muslim males being accused of a terrorism conspiracy on the basis of SPEECH (for essentially nothing more than romanticizing "jihad").

The first two will receive sentences that will allow them to learn a valuable lesson, in short order, and go on with the rest of their lives; while the other two will receive sentences which could only be described as vulgar and oppressive in their excessive "overkill."

In my conclusion, let me be very clear on my position in this matter. I am not opposed to the sentencing scheme that faces Collin McKenzie-Gude and Patrick Yevsukov. I share the view of the former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who said at the House of Commons in 1910:

"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilization of any country. A calm dispassionate recognition of the rights of the accused, and even of the convicted criminal, against the State; a constant heart-searching by all charged with the duty of punishment; a desire and eagerness to rehabilitate in the world of industry those who have paid their due in the hard coinage of punishment; tireless efforts towards discovery of curative and regenerative processes; unfailing faith that there is a treasure, if you can find it, in the heart of every man - these are the symbols, which, in the treatment of crime and criminal, mark and measure the stored-up strength of a nation, and are sign and proof of the living virtue in it."

I only wish that such recognition of human worth and redemptive possibility could be accorded to Muslims who are accused of conspiracies in the nation that trumpets itself around the world as the land of "liberty and justice for all."

 Insha'Allah (God willing), I will travel from Washington (DC) to Atlanta (GA) for Shifa and Haris' sentencing hearing scheduled for Monday, December 14, 2009, at the U.S. District Court in downtown Atlanta. I plan to be a witness when the "civilization" and "virtue" of my nation is tested once again. I pray that many others will plan to do the same.

El-Hajj Mauri' Saalakhan

Director of Operations,

The Peace And Justice Foundation

 Leave your comment/thoughts about the sentence hearing at the following link:

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