US civil liberties under question as terror suspect’s trial delayed

Even though President Barack Obama promised to resolve the problems of detainees being held indefinitely without trial, results have yet to be seen, especially in the case of Syed Fahad Hashmi.

The trial of Hashmi, who is accused of links with Al Qaeda, was supposed to begin on December 1. At the request of the US government, however, the trial has been delayed for at least a month, and at best will begin in the beginning of January.

Many have labeled Hashmi’s case “Guantanamo at home” because the man has been held in solitary confinement for 2.5 years awaiting trial.

Fahad, a 29-year-old Pakistani American, is in 23-hour lockdown, basically in a cage, under the round-the-clock surveillance. Hashmi is not allowed to interact with anyone, talk to press and even read books. He is only allowed to see his family twice a month.

Fahad is very well educated, and following the beginning of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq he went around the communities in New York to try to educate people about Islam. He spoke a lot against the war, against US foreign policy and many, including Fahad’s brother, say that his arrest and solitary confinement are a message sent to America’s Muslim community.

“What we have is a community in fear – from one neighborhood to another, from one city to another, we have case after case of entrapment. This is the reality of America for 7 million people that live in this country,” says Fasil Hashmi, Fahad’s brother.

There is growing outrage in New York City over this case and some of Fahad’s supporters say that while people are paying attention to human rights violations that are taking place outside the US, civil liberties are being denied to Americans at home.

“President Obama ran on a platform that said there was going to be a new day, that was holding up civil liberties and civil rights as sort of crucial to this country, and yet we have not seen commitment in these domestic cases,” says Fahad supporter Gene Theoharris.

There have been vigils held every Monday night over the past eight weeks outside of the prison where Fahad is being held, the Metropolitan Correctional Center, and they will continue until his trial starts.

In another case that recently attracted public attention, two FBI agents are being sued by an Egyptian American, Amir Meshal. His lawyer says that while Meshal was traveling in East Africa in 2007, he was arrested and held for four months without access to a lawyer.

“Mr. Meshal continuously and repeatedly stated that he had nothing to do with Al Qaeda, and upon hearing those answers the interrogators got mad. They said ‘tell us the truth, otherwise we are going to send you to Egypt, where they know how to make people talk,'” said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Nusrat J. Choudhury.