People who have had their lives changed from investigations in the time since 9/11 spoke out Saturday in Tampa against what they’re calling entrapment by law enforcement, preemptive prosecution and hyper-restrictive solitary confinement. Several high-profile defendants and their relatives discussed their personal struggles in light of the war on terror. The common thread connecting all the speakers was overreach by the US justice system.
Nearly 60 people crammed into a chapel at the First United Church of Tampa to listen to and interact with the speakers. Nahla Al-Arian, the wife of former USF professor Sami Al-Arian, has lived in suburban Washington, D.C. since he was released from prison and put under house arrest in 2008. This summer her husband was acquitted of all terrorism charges eight years after a plea deal included an order to deport him. But they still haven’t found a host country. The political situation in Egypt after the coup takes that country off the list.
One of the co-defendants in the Al-Arian case was Hatem Fariz. He was also eventually acquitted of terrorism, but not before spending 3 years in what is known as the Communications Management Unit at a special prison in Indiana. This hyper-restrictive unit was designated especially for terrorist suspects. And as Fariz illustrates, employed hysterical measures to manage the mostly Muslim population.
Before any of these people were arrested and sent to prison, a case — based on evidence — needed to be put together. Some people have accused prosecutors of bungling the chain of evidence in similar cases, sometimes deliberately. One such person is Elena Teyer, the mother-in-law of Ibragim Todashev. Todashev was being investigated by the FBI because he had been friends with one of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing. He was shot and killed in his Orlando apartment during an FBI interrogation. Teyer is convinced it was a set up.
Another person suspected of terrorism, Sami Osmakac, was convicted this summer of plotting to blow up landmarks in Tampa. But his brother, Anvi Osmakac, said Sami has mental illnesses, was entrapped into plotting crimes and is being held in solitary confinement in Pinellas County. He said drug therapy is not helping his brother and neither is the government’s redaction of evidence.
The panel was organized by the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms.