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Terror suspects still in extreme conditions despite torture ban

While Barack Obama has banned the use of interrogation methods deemed as torture, the trial of some Al-Qaeda suspects continue to arouse controversy due to notorious “Special Administrative Measures” (or “SAMs”).

SAMs were brought into effect during the Clinton era and had their powers further increased under Bush. They allow the attorney general to impose severe detention on pre-trial inmates without fully disclosing evidence.

The Metropolitan Correctional Center has been Syed Fahad Hashmi’s home for more than two and a half years. Arrested in 2006, the 29 year old Muslim-American is charged with providing material and contributions to Al-Qaeda.

His supporters say he is being kept in inhumane conditions.

Syed lives a life of 24-hour surveillance, and on the very few times he gets an opportunity to step into the outside world – it is when he is escorted to the federal courthouse across the street. His solitary confinement began under the Bush administration and continues through to today, in spite of bold promises made by the incumbent president upon his accession.

Only 48 hours into his presidency, Barack Obama signed executive orders banning illegal actions his predecessor overlooked.

“I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture,” stated Obama.

As Obama reaffirmed a US return to civil liberties, Syed Fahad Hashmi remained caged inside a New York City jail cell.

Brooklyn College political science professor Jeanne Theoharis says the conditions of Hashmi’s detention are inhumane and violate his chances of a fair trial.

“Now we are many, many months out, and we have seen over and over both in Fahad’s case and in many other cases, that the Obama administration is again resorting to many of the same kinds of claims that the national security requires this very expansive notion of what the state can do,” Jeanne Theoharis says.

According to the FBI, more than 40 US prisoners are being held in SAMs conditions, which many consider deem torture.

Hashmi is isolated from nearly all human contact. Any form of media is also completely prohibited while incarcerated. He is only permitted to contact his attorney and receive no more than two monthly visits.

His father Anwar Hashmi is at every court hearing to see his youngest son. With each visit, he sees the psychological toll complete isolation can take.

“Every individual can feel and can realize that if you put a human being in solitary confinement it affects his mind and his health,” says Anwar Hashmi, father.

Studying political science at Brooklyn College, Hashmi was an anti-war activist who spoke out against US foreign policy and Muslim oppression after 9/11.

“He was very political and known to be very political and so then you do this to somebody who is well known in the community and that sends a message,” insists Professor Jeanne Theoharis. “One could argue it’s intended to send a message about the costs of being politically vocal and politically controversial.”

“He exercised his rights, opinions and liberty and now he’s in a cage,” reminds Anwar Hashmi.

The SAMs imposed on Hashmi are due to expire this month. His supporters say now is the time for their Nobel Prize-winning American leader to act upon his words.

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