After nearly eight years in federal prison, much spent in the Communication Management Unit, Yassin Aref’s case is still not resolved.
Aref was arrested in 2004 during a counter-terrorism sting. In October 2006 he was convicted of conspiring to aid a terrorist group, providing support for a weapon of mass destruction, money laundering and supporting a foreign terrorist organization.
Aref was a witness to a loan during the sting, in which a FBI informant offered Mohammed Hossain, a friend of Aref and Albany pizza shop owner, a loan in which the proceeds originated from the purchase of a surface-to-air missile, according to court documents.
Aref and Hossain both appealed their respective 15-year sentence. Both were denied.
Today in Albany Aref’s appeals attorney, Kathy Manley, held a press conference along with Albany Common Council member Dominick Calsolaro, outlining where Aref’s case stands in light of the recent change in the U.S. Justice Department’s policy regarding National Security Agency surveillance evidence.
In April 2010 the Albany Common Council passed a resolution, sponsored by Calsolaro, asking the Justice Department to take a second look at cases involving potentially flawed evidence obtained via NSA surveillance programs that the defense was never permitted to see.
Manley filed a 2255 motion last summer claiming the FBI thought Aref was an Al Qaeda leader Mohammed Yassin. The information was obtained through a freedom of information request made by Hossain while in prison.
A 2255 motion is Manley’s effort to get Aref a new trial.
The crux of Manley’s case is the new Justice Department police regrading the use NSA evidence.
“We were not even told by the courts of [the evidence's] existence in this case,” Manley said during the press conference. “We know it did because the New York Times [reported] that evidence led to [Aref's] arrest.”
New federal policy says that the government will disclose whether their evidence is derived from the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said old cases will be reviewed on a “rolling basis” to determine whether this type of evidence was involved in the case and council would be notified, according to Manley quoting Holder in a Washington Post article.
Manley is asking the court for official notice NSA evidence was used in the Aref’s case.
“We’re very hopeful that after all these years the truth may be finally coming out and that we can try to get a new trial and that we can try to do something after this unfair conviction without waiting another eighty years,” Manley said, referencing the Scottsboro Boys case.
Manley said she hopes people start paying more attention to cases involving NSA evidence after the leaks made by Edward Snowden revealing that the agency was illegally spying on virtually all America citizens.
Keep checking out The People’s Media for more on this developing story.