[Ppnews] The Ongoing Torture of Syed Fahad Hashmi

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Apr 5 11:27:42 EDT 2010

April 5, 2010

Not Just Guantánamo

The Ongoing Torture of Syed Fahad Hashmi


Today in New York City, the U.S. is torturing a 
Muslim detainee with no prior criminal record who has not even gone to trial.

For the last almost three years, Syed Fahad 
Hashmi has been kept in total pre-trial isolation 
inside in a small cell under 24 hour video and 
audio surveillance.  He is forced to use the 
bathroom and shower in full view of the 
video.  He has not seen the sun in years.  He 
takes his meals alone in his cell. He cannot see 
any other detainees and he is not allowed to 
communicate in any way with any prisoners.  He 
cannot write letters to friends and he cannot 
make calls to anyone but his lawyer.  He is 
prohibited from participating in group 
prayer.  He gets newspapers that are 30 days old 
with sections cut out by the government.  One 
hour a day he is taken into another confined room 
where he is also kept in total isolation.

Children are taught that the U.S. Constitution 
protects people accused of crimes.  No one is to 
be punished unless their guilt or innocence has 
been decided in a fair trial.  Until trial, 
people are entitled to the presumption of 
innocence.  They are entitled to be defended by 
an attorney of their choice.  And the Eighth 
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

The punishment of Mr. Hashmi has been going on 
for years while he has been waiting for 
trial.  In addition to the punitive isolation he 
is subjected to today, he was denied the attorney 
of his choice. He was allowed only counsel 
investigated and pre-approved by the 
government.  He is not allowed to look at any 
translated documents unless the translator is 
pre-approved by the government. He is not allowed 
any contact with the media at all.  One member of 
his family can visit through the heavy screen for 
one hour every other week unless the government 
takes away those visits to further punish 
him.  The government took away his family visits 
for 90 days when he was observed shadow boxing in 
his cell and talked back to the guard who asked what he was doing.

If the Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual 
punishment, what is the impact of forced 
isolation?  Medical testimony presented in his 
case in federal court concluded that after 60 
days in solitary people’s mental state begins to 
break down.  That means a person will start to 
experience panic, anxiety, confusion, headaches, 
heart palpitations, sleep problems, withdrawal, 
anger, depression, despair, and 
over-sensitivity.  Over time this can lead to 
severe psychiatric trauma and harms like 
psychosis, distortion of reality, hallucinations, 
mass anxiety and acute confusion.  Essentially, the mind disintegrates.

That is why, under international standards for 
human rights, extended isolation is considered a 
form of torture and is banned. The conditions and 
practices of isolation are in violation of the 
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the U.N. 
Convention against Torture, and the U.N. 
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

In 1995, the U.N. Human Rights Committee stated 
that isolation conditions in certain U.S. maximum 
security prisons were incompatible with 
international standards. In 1996, the U.N. 
special rapporteur on torture reported on cruel, 
inhuman, and degrading treatment in U.S. supermax 
prisons.  In 2000, the U.N. Committee on Torture 
roundly condemned the United States for its 
treatment of prisoners, citing supermax prisons. 
In May 2006, the same committee concluded that 
the United States should “review the regimen 
imposed on detainees in supermax prisons, in 
particular, the practice of prolonged isolation.”

John McCain said his two years in solitary 
confinement were torture. “It crushes your spirit 
and weakens your resistance effectively than any 
other form of mistreatment.”  The reaction of 
McCain and many other victims of isolation 
torture were described in a 2009 New Yorker 
article on isolation by Atul Gawande.  Gawande 
concluded that prolonged isolation is objectively 
horrifying, intrinsically cruel, and more 
widespread in the U.S. than any country in the world.

Who is this man?  Syed Fahad Hashmi grew up in 
Queens and attended Brooklyn College. He became 
an outspoken Muslim activist.  He moved to London 
and received a master’s degree in international relations there.

Yet the federal judge hearing his case continues 
to approve of the forced isolation and the rest 
of the restrictions on this presumably innocent man.

The reason that this is allowed to continue is 
that Hashmi is accused of being involved with al Qaeda.

Mr. Hashmi is accused of helping al Qaeda by 
allowing rain gear (raincoats, ponchos and socks) 
that were going to Afghanistan to be stored in 
his Queens apartment, he allowed his cell phone 
to be used to contact al Qaeda supporters and he 
made post-arrest threatening statements.

Supporters of Fahad have demonstrated outside his 
jail, set up a website – 
<http://www.freefahad.com>www.freefahad.com and 
have worked for years to alert the public to his 
torture.  Articles by Amy Goodman, Chris Hedges 
and Jeanne Theoharris have been written over the 
past several years documenting and protesting these human rights violations.

But, once accused of connections with terrorism 
or al Qaeda, apparently, the U.S. constitution 
and international human rights apparently do not 
apply.  Torture by the U.S. is 
allowed.  Pre-trial punishment is allowed.  The 
presumption of innocence goes out the 
window.  Counsel of choice is not allowed. 
Communication with news media not allowed.

The trial of Syed Fahad Hashmi is set for April 
28, 2010 in New York.  Till then he will continue 
to be tortured by the U.S. government whose star 
spangled banner proclaims it to be the land of 
the free and the home of the brave.

Bill Quigley is legal director of the Center for 
Constitutional Rights and a law professor at 
Loyola University New Orleans. He can be 
contacted at <mailto:quigley77 at gmail.com>quigley77 at gmail.com.

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