[Ppnews] Muhammad Salah - Terrorism in our courts
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Feb 8 11:30:19 EST 2007
Terrorism in our courts
By Tom Durkin
Published February 8, 2007
Something very, very important happened in this town last week.
A federal jury acquitted two Muslims of the most
serious charges in an alleged "terrorism" case
that at one time in the government's heralded
"war on terror" was so important that none other
than then-Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft himself saw
fit to hold a news conference in Washington with
Chicago U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald announcing
the indictment's return in 2004. At the time,
Ashcroft said that these two men "played a
substantial role in financing and supporting
international terrorism ... [and] took advantage
of the freedoms of an open society to foster and finance acts of terror. "
Fitzgerald's office then promptly proceeded to
announce that it would prove its case by
attempting to introduce a purported confession
that defendant Muhammad Salah gave in Israel to
Israeli authorities after 80 days of
interrogation in an Israeli prison in 1993.
When Salah's lawyers challenged the use of this
purported confession as the byproduct of Israeli
torture tactics, Fitzgerald's office promptly
asked U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve to close
her courtroom to the public so that it could
present the testimony of some of the Israeli
agents in a secret proceeding. Not only would the
courtroom be closed, but the Israeli agents would
be permitted to testify in disguises with code
names. St. Eve granted the government's request
and conducted weeks of testimony in her courtroom
that was completely shut off from the public.
Black crepe paper was used to cover the windows
in her courtroom doors and federal agents, along
with a bomb-sniffing dog, barricaded the hall
outside her courtroom. Two CIA-looking types in
suits and headphones sat in the corner of her
courtroom with a table full of electronic
equipment, supposedly scrambling any attempt by
the participants in the hearing to filter information out of the courtroom.
St. Eve also had no problem at the end of the
hearing permitting the government to introduce
the confession at trial notwithstanding
considerable evidence presented in the hearing
with respect to torture tactics that were in
place and regularly used by the Israeli secret
police. She accepted the government's argument
that the Israeli secret police decided not to use
their torture tactics against Salah because he was an American.
So much for the "freedoms of an open society" Ashcroft was so concerned about.
Fortunately, and to the surprise of many, the
jury had the courage to preserve what is left of
the freedoms of an open society Ashcroft and his
cronies in the Justice Department and the White
House have left us with since Sept. 11, 2001.
This jury had the courage and integrity not to
fall for the government's much abused "terrorism"
rhetoric and call this case for what it was
worth--which was virtually nothing. The
government was left with minor perjury and
obstruction charges that Fitzgerald's office is
now trying to claim with a straight face is a
victory. This verdict is, indeed, a victory but
it is a victory for all of us, not the
government. It is a victory for anyone who cares
about the freedoms of an open society that
Ashcroft attempted to dismantle--from the
expansive use of the USA Patriot Act, the
National Security Agency illegal wiretapping,
Guantanamo Bay, foreign extraordinary renditions,
and a virtual disregard of civil liberties in
this country in the name of the "war on terror."
What should also not be lost on anyone is the
extraordinary effort of the Muslim-American
communities in Chicago and Virginia that rallied
around the Salah family and his co-defendant,
Abdelhaleem Ashqar. To fight the government in
the face of potential life sentences is no small
effort unto itself. It's even more daunting to
raise the money it takes to bring in lawyers who
are talented enough to attempt to level the
uneven playing field the government gets in its
federal courts these days. If it takes a village
to raise a child these days, it truly takes a
community to stand up to the government. We
should all take note as a community and pay attention before it is too late.
Tom Durkin, an assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago
from 1978 to 1984, is a federal criminal defense
lawyer.. He was at one time an attorney for
Abdelhaleem Ashqar. He did not participate in the trial.
Copyright © 2007,
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