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28 Apr, 2010 02:28

Guilty plea of alleged Al-Qaeda accomplice under question

A Pakistani-born American student has pleaded guilty to charges of helping Al-Qaeda just two days before his trial in New York was to start.

Some lawyers fear that his three years in solitary confinement in Lower Manhattan may have been a factor in his last-ditch plea bargain.

Fahad Hashmi has been behind bars since his arrest in London’s Heathrow Airport in June 2006, and he became the first person ever to be extradited from the UK to the US on terrorism charges.

Since his incarceration, Hashmi, a US citizen, has been held under so-called “special administrative measures”. He is locked up in a jail for 23 hours a day, not able to interact with another human being.

Shayana Kadidal, a lawyer from the Center for Constitutional Rights, says that is likely Hashmi's rights were violated.

“I think it’s pretty clear what they are trying to do here… is increase the psychological pressure on him to the point where he would cave in and agree to a plea agreement and then start talking about everybody else he knew in his political circles,” Kadidal told RT. “Using psychological pressure essentially is a way to gather information, just like what happened in Guantanamo or in any place where this kind of interrogation [is used].”

Fahad Hashmi’s parents were allowed to see him no more than once a week, but even that interaction was banned altogether.

The charges against Fahad Hashmi are based on the testimony of a witness who stayed in the defendant’s house back in 2004. That person, officials claim, passed some material to them indicating that Fahad Hashmi was trying to provide material support for terrorists – by carrying ponchos and raincoats in his luggage. It is not certain whether such “military gear” is something the prosecution should be concerned about.