[Vanessa Lynch | @drvonskillet]
In his citizen’s complaint against the Springfield Police Department, Ayyub Abdul-Alim charges that shortly after his arrest in 2011 he was interrogated by Special Agent James Hisgin of the FBI and offered, “the deal of a lifetime”. The deal was this – come work for us as an informant / provocateur within the Muslim community (a career which would include initiating conversations in mosques, community centers and universities, inciting violence, and then entrapping those who cooperated) or spend the next 20 years in jail.
Ayyub found a third option – the truth.
He refused the deal on the grounds that he was innocent and would not sacrifice his convictions and his values in the face of government bullying. The response was as expected, and Ayyub was sent to Ludlow Jail for charges of carrying a gun without a firearms ID card, carrying ammunition without an FID card, and carrying a loaded gun.
On December 9, 2011 Ayyub Abdul-Alim was stopped by Springfield Police officers Sowers, Berrios and later joined by Officer Sheehan. Sheehan, under orders from the FBI Counterterrorism Task Force of Springfield, was told to bring Ayyub in for a meeting with Special Agent James Hisgin, an agent who had been contacting Ayyub for the last several months pressuring him to work as an informant.
Ayyub’s wife at the time, Siham Nafi Stewart, was working as a paid informant with the Police and the local FBI in this entrapment scheme, and was a key player in his arrest.
The justice system operates on the legal basis that you are, “innocent until proven guilty” and while Ayyub has not been found guilty on these charges, he has spent the last 2 and a half years of his life waiting in Ludlow jail for a chance to see trial, and for a chance at justice.
After over two years of outreach, organizing, citizen’s complaints, appeals, and motions for evidence relating to his arrest, on April 10th, 2014 Ayyub Abdul-Alim’s trial finally began.
A Chance For Justice
Abdul-Alim talking with his attorney Thomas Robinson. [Don Treeger | firstname.lastname@example.org, MassLive]
saw the testimonies from Ayyub’s ex-wife and the three arresting officers, an audio recording from the night of the arrest, a statement from Springfield PD gun expert, and a statement from Ayyub for his Defense.
The only way in which the officers testifying was consistent was in their inconsistencies; Officers & gun experts made contradicting statements about the location of the arrest, the reason behind the arrest, the location of Ayyub when the gun was found, and in fact, what kind of gun was actually found.
In defense Officers made statements like,
“Well, I’m not really a gun expert” (Berrios)
“Well – I do my pat-frisks different now” (Sowers) on why the gun wasn’t found on the first two searches
a wonderful example of types of guns, “you know Clint Eastwood? Well do you know John Wayne?” (gun expert)
and the unforgettable“Yeah, it’s like –shrug- whatever” (Sheehan), were a few memorable highlights.
Throughout the trial the Prosecution has done their best to ensure that mention of FBI involvement is kept to the bare minimum, going as far as to exclude witnesses.
In his own defense on Friday afternoon Ayyub testified that several people were aware of the FBI harassment. When he first received a call offering him the chance to become an informant, he immediately went to his State Representative Ben Swan to file a complaint. Friday afternoon Representative Swan was inside the courthouse waiting to testify as a witness but on the grounds that it could be hearsay for the Representative to testify because there was no way to verify his statement, the prosecution objected to his presence in the courtroom. The judge ruled in favor of the objection, and the Jury never got the chance to hear his testimony.
It’s an interesting note because this testimony would have confirmed Ayyub’s Friday testimony (and previous testimonies) that the FBI contacted him several months before his arrest and he filed complaints about their harassment. This information would be crucial to a jury deciding whether or not this arrest was entrapment. One has to wonder what reason the court has for not allowing influential leaders to speak for the defense. One also has to wonder just who is seeing justice if testimonies are not allowed from elected State Officials.
Organized by ‘Justice for Ayyub’, activists gather before the trial demanding Ayyub’s release. [Vanessa Lynch | @drvonskillet]
First to take the stand was Mr. Abdul-Alim for a chance to be cross examined by the prosecution. He made strong statements about the night of his arrest, and maintained that the gun was planted on him by corrupt officers from the Springfield Police Department working in conjunction with the Springfield branch office of the FBI Counterterrorism Task Force.
Following Ayyub, Investigator Lewis Gordon took the stand to testify about the video cameras located at the Getty Gas Station on State Street where Ayyub’s arrest took place. These video cameras caught the entire arrest on tape, but were never collected as evidence, and destroyed as a result. This evidence is also crucial to the case, and conveniently no longer exists.
Next was Nancy Flahive, a Springfield Attorney who formerly represented Ayyub. The question raised to her was, “Did the FBI ever contact you about your client?”
The Prosecution was quick to object (which was sustained) but Attorney Flahive was quicker, “yes.”
The answer was stricken but an obvious pattern emerged to support Abdul-Alim’s statements – that the FBI had contacted him on multiple occasions, and several people knew about it.
The morning questioning took some time and involved much sidebar time with the judge and many statements cut short. Because testifying about contact with the FBI was only based off of testimonies and experience which could not be proven, much of it was called hearsay and not allowed into evidence. Sweeney did not want to allow, “he said, she said” into the court room.This gave the Defense a harder job, as the whole defense theory is based off the notion that in order to force Ayyub to become an informant, the FBI contacted he and his community on multiple occasions.
The next witness to take the stand was Dr. Ishmail Ali, the Imam of the Masjid Al-Tawheed in Springfield – Ayyub’s former mosque.
In his statement on Friday, Ayyub testified that Special Agent Hisgin had visited the mosque and approached both he and Dr. Ali. Defense Attorney Thomas Robinson raised a question asking Dr. Ali if the FBI had ever visited the mosque and there was an objection. After several more minutes at sidebar, Defense Attorney Thomas Robinson came back and phrased the question the only way he was able, “Were you present when the FBI approached Ayyub and asked him to become an informant?”
Seargent Manley of the Springfield Police Department took the stand next.
He works in Internal Investigation and was charged with investigating Ayyub’s 2013 Citizen’s Complaint against the Springfield PD for “Religious discrimination, sexual assault, assault and battery, invasion of privacy, falsification of evidence, perjury and dereliction of duty”
Defense Attorney Robinson tried on several attempts to raise questions about why the video from the Getty Station was never recovered, and if Internal Affairs had ever seen any of the six cameras located at the Getty Gas station. The line of questioning was redirected several times, but in the end Sergeant Manley testified that he had, “not seen any cameras.”
[in-ves-ti-geyt]to examine, study, or inquire into systematically; search or examine into the particulars of; examine in detail. (dictionary.com)
Recess and Deliberations
Following a recess court made their closing arguments and the Jury left to begin deliberations.
After 2 hours and 10 minutes, they returned with a resolution of a hung jury.
The group was divided down the middle – 6 for acquittal, 6 for charges.
Judge Sweeney ruled that two hours of deliberation is not equal to two and a half days of trial, and ruled that the deliberations will continue tomorrow morning. Jurors will reach a decision by tomorrow afternoon.
The trial of Ayyub Abdul-Alim has brought forward the irresponsible, awkward and sometimes downright treasonous workings of the local police, government, military forces.
Hopefully it has also begun to show these forces that more and more people are beginning to stand up for themselves in the face of this oppression, and that despite the risk of losing everything, we are becoming less afraid, more empowered, and more vocal.
It is a sincere hope that tomorrow the Jury will reach a verdict of Not Guilty in Ayyub’s case, and he will be one less man who fell prey to the whims of a failed system.
Ayyub Abdul-Alim throughout his struggle for justice has inspired many people with his strength and resolution. We should also maintain strength in these times where refusing to become a spy can land you behind bars and or a relationship with someone whose job it is to entrap you.
Tomorrow we stand with Ayyub.
The struggle continues.