By Madis Senner Post Standard 4/19/07

It is unfortunate that the interview of U.S. Attorney Glenn Suddaby in Sunday’s paper did not take him to task over politics. It would have brought the U.S. attorneys scandal home.

The editorial pages and columnists at both the Albany Times-Union and Schenectady Gazette have criticized the FBI and Suddaby over the prosecution of Imam Aref and Mohamed Hossain in a fictitious sting operation. Times-Union columnist Fred LeBrun wrote: “There is nothing new to say about the injustice done to Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain. All we can do now is shake our heads in disbelief that this could happen in America.”

Similarly, this paper’s editorial page has questioned the tactics and motives in prosecuting Dr. Rafil Dhafir. It questioned the prosecutor’s ethics of smearing Dhafir as a terrorist during sentencing, when they had successfully argued to prevent Dhafir’s lawyers from raising the issue of terrorism during the trial: “Is it fair that a person could spend years in prison for a crime without first being convicted?”

Dhafir supporters have consistently said he was selectively prosecuted. He is one of the only people to be criminally charged with breaking the U.S. sanctions against Iraq.

Many feel that the St. Patrick’s Four were also selectively prosecuted. After a local jury could not convict the four Catholic workers for symbolically pouring blood at a Cayuga County military recruiting station in 2003, Suddaby’s office brought federal conspiracy charges against them. Bill Quigley, the defense lawyer for the four, said he could find no similar case of federal conspiracy charges, going back to the Nixon era. He called it an attempt to “hyper-criminalize dissent.”

The trials themselves raised questions. Members of the legal teams of both Dhafir (Joel Cohen) and Aref (Steve Downs) said it was the first time in their respective careers that the prosecution, and not the defense, attempted to obfuscate matters.

In his closing argument, Devereaux Cannick, Dhafir’s lawyer, said the prosecution “willfully and knowingly let a witness lie.” If this is true, then the U.S. Attorney’s Office is guilty of prosecutorial misconduct.

Why so many political cases? Why Suddaby?

It is apparent that enormous pressure was brought to bear on the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI to win trophies in the war on terror. Contrary to what Mr. Suddaby said, he was indeed on a very “hot seat.”

To understand the enormity of the pressure, we need only look to former governor George Pataki. He smeared Aref and Hossain as terrorists at the time of their arrest. He also maligned Dhafir, only weeks before his trial. The Post-Standard editorial page wrote: “Pataki’s public remarks seemed to confirm what Dhafir and his supporters have been saying all along – that the federal case against Dhafir is a political prosecution as well as a criminal one.”

What is even worse is that pressure from federal authorities may have been brought to bear on state and local agencies. During the fourth bail hearing for Dr. Dhafir, we learned that Sgt. Powlina of the Justice Center was told by “the government” to deny a member of the legal team access to visit him. This is clearly against the law. Who is Powlina referring to when he said “the government” told him to do it?

Too bad the Sunday article did not challenge Mr. Suddaby. We would have found out that the Northern District of New York U.S. Attorney’s Office had become politicized.

Madis Senner is a faith-based activist living in Syracuse.
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© 2007 The Post-Standard. Used with permission.
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