Aref Appeal Denied: Albany Imam Remains Imprisoned
Yassin Aref, the Albany imam convicted of material support for terrorism along with pizzeria owner Mohammed Hossain after an FBI sting in 2004, has been denied the right to file a new appeal asking for a new trial.
In 2013, Aref's attorneys had found new evidence, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, that Aref had been misidentified by the FBI. That was the basis for an appeal. Activists have long insisted that the terrorism case against Albany residents Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain dating back to 2004 was more of a "frame-up" than a sting. The two are serving 15-year federal prison sentences for their involvement in an alleged money-laundering incidnet tied to the sale of a fake shoulder-fired missle.
Kathy Manley, with the law firm Kindlon Shanks, says the 2nd Circuit Court’s decision to deny Aref permission to file his appeal with the district court spells the death of free and fair trials. "We have compelling new evidence that Yasin was innocent and it was mistaken identity and we can't get anywhere with that. So it means there is no due process, no justice in the courts for cases like this."
Joe Lombardo, with Bethelehem Neighbors For Peace, says the terror case played out under the shadow of 9/11, when it seemed every Muslim was suspect, and, along with cases like "The Fort Dix Five" and "The Newburgh Four," Albany made global headlines. "The governor came, Senator Schumer came, the mayor came, they held this big conference about terrorists being found in Albany. I came right to the mosque here. And there were international media from all over the world showing the mosque where these terrorists were. And it built up this case for terrorism which built up the US case for war."
Activists say repeated phone calls to Washington on behalf of incarcerated Muslims are never returned. Appeals for the Aref and Hossain cases were dismissed in 2008. "For 8 years we've been behind them and behind their families, because we think what happened to them and to other Muslims in not justice. It's something that shouldn't happen in this country," said Lombardo.
Albany County legislator Doug Bullock says he's taking the case to a new level. "What it is is a sting raid that's gone mad. Because they're still in jail. We're goin' on almost a decade that they've been in prison. And I think that imprisonment is long enough. I wanna take a further step today and call on President Obama to pardon them."
Aref is incarcerated in Pennsylvania. He is scheduled to be released in October 2018.