[Ppnews] FBI "witch-hunt" in Lodi
PPnews at freedomarchives.org
PPnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jun 23 08:43:33 EDT 2005
Thank you so very much for all your supporting emails, telephone calls and
offer to help the Muslim community in this difficult time. I have been
thinking about writing something about "Lodi terrorism case" but was unable
to do so because I could see the same card played over and over again. Our
administration is creating a culture of fear, division, anger, frustration,
confusion and hate so they can expand their agenda.
I would like to assure you that I am very concern about the safety and
security of our country, I live here, my friends, family members and
children live here but scapegoating the entire community is not the route
we should be taking. As I learned more about the case it became Crystal
clear that the Muslims and Arabs are not granted the same rights that our
Constitution guarantees for all of its citizens. Over two weeks have passed
and so far both Hamid and Umer have been charged only with lying to federal
investigators about Hamid's visit to Pakistan in 2003.
Please read the report written by Sunaina Maira ( a friend and partner in
struggle for justice )and Veena Dubal, activists, on their trip to Lodi
after the Hayat arrests.
PS. Both imams cases would be heard in San Francisco and I will need help
from all of you to fill up the court room for support and solidarity. We
will keep you posted. <http://www.amuslimvoice.org/>www.amuslimvoice.org.
The FBI "witch-hunt" in Lodi
By Veena Dubal and Sunaina Maira
On June 7Th 2005, national and international media attention focused on the
small, agricultural town of Lodi, located approximately forty miles south
of Sacramento. The FBI arrested and detained two individuals, both
Pakistani-Americans, who they suspected had AL-Qaeda affiliations.
The investigation was presented as a "terrorism case" by the government and
news sources. The initial affidavit released to the media said that
U.S.-born Hamid Hayat, had attended a terror-training camp in Pakistan
along with "hundreds" of other terrorists, and returned to the US intending
to "attack . . . hospitals and large food stores." This kind of detail
resulted in a flood of sensationalized media coverage, portraying 23-year
old Hamid as a prospective mass murder and his father, Umer Hayat, a
47-year old ice cream truck driver, as the financial supporter and
mastermind of an alleged "Lodi terrorist cell".
Neither allegation, however, was in the affidavit filed with a federal
court in Sacramento the same day.
The FBI retracted their affidavit alleging Hamid's plot to attack domestic
targets and began downplaying the seriousness of the presumed threat the
men posed. Both Hamid and Umer were ultimately charged only with lying to
federal investigators about Hamid's visit to Pakistan in 2003.
Three other Muslim men from Lodi, among them two respected imams, were also
detained on suspected visa violations. One of the imams had actually been
the target of FBI surveillance beginning three years ago when a secret
court used the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to approve
wiretapping of Mohammed Adil Khan.
While the Justice Department has maintained that it was not deliberately
trying to precipitate an anti-Muslim witch hunt, the difference between the
two affidavits - the one released to the media and the one filed in court -
as well as recent FBI activity in Lodi, speak a different story. None of
the five men have been charged with carrying out or planning to commit any
act of violence.
The many inconsistencies in the case and the hysteria it stoked coincided
very neatly with Bush's campaign to renew and expand the 2001 Patriot Act,
which can only be justified if there was an ongoing "terrorist threat" and
the public continues to fear that there are Muslim or Arab terrorists in
On June 14, we traveled up to Lodi to assess the impact of the arrests and
surveillance of the local South Asian community, which is estimated to
consist of over 2500 Pakistanis, some of whom have been living in the town
for three generations. Basim Elkarra, Executive Director of the
Sacramento office of CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) has been
diligently organizing in response to the arrests and interrogations of
local Pakistanis by FBI agents swarming into town and warned us prior to
our arrival about the extent of surveillance and the fear the community
felt. But no amount of warning could have prepared us for the state of
near siege in the town.
As soon as we stepped out of our car in Lodi, we were made aware of the
FBI's presence. Not only is the entire Muslim community being surveilled
by the FBI, which had interviewed many of its members, sometimes without an
attorney present, in the days following the arrest - so are the attorneys
and activists who are making sure that constitutional rights are
upheld. During our brief visit with Mr. Elkarra and civil rights attorneys
from the ACLU, a man with a large afro-wig in a blue SUV circled us and
took photos. When we tried to approach him, he fled, only to return later
to take more photographs. His conspicuous appearance made us realize the
extent to which the FBI harassment is not at all a secret
investigation: it is an overt act of intimidation of the community at large.
One of the attorneys we spoke to noted that the community feels
"terrorized." Residents believe that they are being interrogated by the
FBI and placed under
automatic suspicion because they are Muslim..
Pakistanis who attended the "Know Your Rights" workshops held by CAIR in
Stockton, Lodi, and Pleasanton were all subject to obvious FBI
surveillance. One Muslim mother told an attorney that her young child was
followed from her home to an ice cream store by an FBI car. Others
complained that they were taken out of their places of employment by the
FBI for questioning and then could not return because their co-workers
became suspicious of them.
The most shocking of these reports was that of an incident where the FBI
stormed the Hayat home, when only women and children were present, by
ramming down the front door and putting a gun to a woman's head. When her
eleven-year old daughter passed out, she was denied medical attention, a
gross violation of human rights that outraged even the local emergency care
After handing out "Know Your Rights" fliers to community members who have
been repeatedly questioned, we went to visit the Lodi mosque that is under
FBI scrutiny. The mosque is a small, humble structure - a former Jehovah's
Witness church - next to the cannery where Pakistani men have worked as
fruit packers, in some cases for more than thirty years. South Asian and
Latino children were
playing basketball together across from the mosque while older South Asian
men sat on the grass, presumably relaxing after a long day's work.
Most of the Muslims who attend this mosque speak Pashtu and are from the
Northwest Frontier area of Pakistan. Some have family that had been in the
area since as early as 1908, working on the railroads. They told us that
the FBI began coming to Lodi immediately after September 11Th, making
"friends" with mosque members. The men all seemed undaunted by the FBI
siege. However, it was clear within minutes that beneath the welcoming,
calm exterior, was a harassed, interrogated, and scared community.
One man described to us, without looking around, exactly where each federal
agent's car was parked; we saw the three large, black-tinted SUVs just
yards from the mosque and the courts where the young boys were
playing. Another middle-aged man said calmly, "Let them come ask us
questions; we have nothing to hide." While this resilience was
encouraging, we were reminded by another Pakistani man who had already
been questioned several times that while he did not mind speaking to the
FBI, it was frightening for his wife and children. In addition, this has
led to a racist backlash by some Lodi residents agitated by the lurid media
reports about Islamic terrorists and sleeper cells.
The government's investigation in Lodi has been conducted in a way that
does not respect the legal rights and dignity of the Muslim
community: individuals have been systematically discouraged from
exercising their right to an attorney and have been disallowed access to
attorneys; there has been at least one detention of an individual who was
not read his Miranda warnings; and women and children have been intimidated
and denied medical care. Perhaps equally disturbing, however, is that the
general public has been given new reason to fear South Asians and Muslims
as presumed terrorists. A community that has made this area home for over
one hundred years has been investigated, intimidated, and cast under a
shroud of suspicion, all within days.
Veena Dubal is a JD/PhD student at the University of California at
Berkeley, Boalt Hall, and Sunaina Maira is an Associate Professor of Asian
American Studies at the University of California at Davis. Both are
volunteers with the SF Bay Area organization, ASATA - Alliance of South
Asians Taking Action.
The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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