October 17, 2014
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(TheAntiMedia) How does a non-violent man who once owned a store called “Nature’s Garden” and who founded a religious center that offered free meals and prayer services…end up in jail?
He is born half black, subscribes to Islam, and refuses to be an informant for the FBI. He is then denied justice at every level of his fabricated arrest and trial.
Ayyub Abdul-Alim is a 36-year-old native New Yorker who was arrested in Springfield, Massachusetts on December 9, 2011 for “possession of a firearm and ammunition without a firearm identification card.” Police records indicate he had no firearm on him at the time of arrest, yet he is serving 4-6 years for this crime.
Abdul-Alim’s targeting began a year before his arrest, in 2010, after a three-week trip to Mecca.
Abdul-Alim told The Nation that shortly after he returned to America, he began receiving calls from FBI agent, James Hisgen, an employee of the FBI’s Springfield office. Abdul-Alim recounts that he asked him questions like, “Do you love America?” and implored him to call him back to work as an informant. Abdul-Alim refused.
In his pursuit of an informant, Hisgen went so far as to visit Abdul-Alim’s mosque, Masjid Al Tawheed, with two other agents. Hisgen lied and said he was from the Springfield Building Department. He demanded to search the building but the Imam, Dr. Ishmael Ali, refused him due to the lack of a warrant. Ali recounted that in the time before Abdul Ali’s arrest, the man had sought advice from the Imam on how to get the FBI to stop harassing him. He had no interest in working for them.
Then, on December 9, 2011, he was stopped and frisked by two police officers on his way into a gas station store next to his house in Springfield. The officers had been ordered by Springfield police officer, Ronald Sheehan, to stop him and search him for a gun. They found no weapons. Sheehan ordered them, by radio, to search again. Again they found nothing. Abdul-Alim claims that after that, Sheehan said, “Is the subject in earshot?”
One of the cops, Angel Berrios, walked away. The police transcript ends here, but Abdul-Alim testified in court that when Berrios returned:
“[He] then (sic) pulls my pants to my ankles with my boxer shorts, touching my butt and penis area. Officer Berrios then (sic) yells out ‘Gun, he has a gun!’…I immediately said, ‘That gun is not mine! You know that gun is not mine! You searched me two times!’”
Abdul-Alim also testified that Sheehan, who was on the Joint Terrorism Task Force and worked with the FBI, showed up to the scene:
“…Within minutes, the same unmarked car pulls back up and Officer Sheehan in plain clothes exits the car. He opens the back door to the police car where I was being detained and said ‘Are you ready to make the deal of a lifetime (sic)?’ I said, ‘That gun is not mine and I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ Officer Sheehan said, ‘Think about it on the way to the station.’”
Sheehan immediately contacted his FBI superior, James Hisgen. 48 hours after his arrest, the two interrogated him in jail.
Abdul-Alim recalled to The Nation that Hisgen said:
“You may remember I called you about a year ago requesting a meeting to discuss possible information you may have that could be helpful, but you refused to meet with me. Maybe you’ll be more willing to cooperate now.”
“They said that I was facing ten years, but I could walk away right now if I agreed to be an informant…They said that they would give me the names of specific people who they wanted me to target, and I would use anti-government propaganda to incite them to violent action. They implied that they would provide me with guns and bombs to give people.”
This is nothing new for the FBI. In 2011, Mother Jones reported on the agency using informants to incite individuals into “committing” “acts of terrorism,” then publicly taking credit for foiling terrorist plots.
Abdul-Alim refused to be an informant, even in exchange for his freedom. He was held in jail for 2.5 years at the Hampden County Correctional Center until his trial. Then, in December of 2013, the prosecution added an entirely new set of charges to the original gun charge: police claimed to have searched an apartment complex Abul-Alim managed and to have found a bag of guns in an empty suite. Of the new charges, his public defender, Thomas Robinson observed:
“They supposedly sat on this information for two years, which is definitely very unusual.”
When the trial started in April of this year, there were numerous inconsistencies in the prosecution’s stories:
“The officers could not agree on simple details, including how many times they searched Abdul-Alim, or the location and time that they allegedly found the gun. The gun was originally described by police and a ballistic expert as a .22 revolver but later identified in court as a .25 semi-automatic pistol manufactured in 1908.
A police forensics analysis conducted three days after the arrest found that there were no fingerprints on the gun. In contradiction to police procedure, the arresting officers failed to retrieve surveillance videos of the arrest scene, wear gloves while handling the weapon, or write a complete police report.”
Abdul-Alim testified in court that he believed the police planted a weapon on him in an attempt to force him to be an informant.
Further, it was revealed during the trial that Abdul-Alim’s wife, Siham Stewart, was paid almost $12,000 to be an informant to Sheehan and the FBI. Her testimony contradicted statements from an earlier hearing.
This, however, did not concern the judge, Constance Sweeney, who heard the case only as one of straightforward gun charges. She barred any discussion of the FBI’s involvement and banned three defense witnesses, including Dr. Ali. She forbid evidence from Senator Benjamin Swan, whom Abdul-Alim contacted before his arrest for help regarding the FBI’s harassment.
When the jury came back hung two times (warranting a re-trial), Sweeney refused their decision. She did not accept a verdict until the jury returned with “guilty.” Abdul-Alim was sentenced to 4-6 years for the arresting “offense.” He awaits sentencing for the second “charge,” which carries up to ten years of additional time.
As the investigative piece by The Nation noted, Abdul-Alim found himself at a brutal crossroads in American society: being black and facing institutionalized racism while also being Muslim, thereby indiscriminately targeted in the War on Terror. He is also half Puerto Rican and both of his parents had been members of groups targeted by the FBI decades ago: the Black Panthers and the Young Lords, a radical Puerto Rican group.
Abdul-Alim’s story should be a wake-up call to any American that claims to love their “free” country or supports the intrusion of massive government into the lives of every citizen.
When the people live in fear of conjured-up terrorist threats, the government exploits these emotions to lie, cheat, manipulate and abuse its citizens. That a person like Adbul-Alim—a businessman, father, and charitable citizen—can be sentenced on deceitful charges shows just how effective propaganda can be, whether it is used to inflict nonstop war, destroy liberties, or to punish someone for refusing to help a corrupt agency manufacture proof of its effectiveness (worse, punishment for refusing to be an informant is not an isolated case).
Of all of the disturbing elements of this story, one of the most chilling is that it has hardly been covered by the media. Few know who Ayyub Abdul-Alim is as he sits in jail for a non-violent crime he didn’t commit. The press has failed in informing the people of such a horrifying incident of flagrant abuse and corruption. If they knew, perhaps injustices such as these would be curbed.
Please visit Justice for Ayyub for more details on the sham of his prosecution and share this article to show the real face, force and fraud of the war on terror and the government agencies that claim to provide for your freedom.