A former Brooklyn College student, Syed Hashmi, has pled guilty to providing material support to al Qaeda. This, after months of criticism from civil rights groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) that the charges were unfounded and the security measures in place were unconstitutional.
The defendant, a Pakistani who became an American citizen, was indicted in May of 2006. According to the indictment:
"From January 2004 through May 2006, Hashmi provided material support or resources to al Qaeda by helping to provide equipment to others who then transported the equipment to al Qaeda associates in South Waziristan, Pakistan. Hashmi provided the equipment with knowledge that it would be used by al Qaeda to fight against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Hashmi also provided money to a co-conspirator who planned to transport the equipment to al Qaeda in Afghanistan."
British authorities arrested Hashmi at Heathrow Airport a month later while he was set to board a flight to Pakistan. Hashmi became the first person extradited from Britain to the United States on terrorism charges, and he was set to stand trial for his crimes this week in a federal court in Manhattan.
Hashmi has been in the custody of U.S. authorities pending trial since then. Throughout that time, his continued incarceration has been the subject of much criticism. While challenging the indictment itself as a form of guilt by association, most of the critiques have focused on the conditions of Hashmi's confinement. In an open letter drafted by the Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International USA, and CAIR-NY stated:
"Muslim community groups are increasingly expressing concern about these prison conditions, as they seem to be imposed disproportionately on Muslims suspected of connections with terrorism."
Despite past denials of any culpability for his role in supplying al Qaeda terrorists, Tuesday, just a day prior to trial, Hashmi pled guilty to one count of the indictment in exchange for a reduced sentence. Avoiding a possible 70 year prison sentence, Hashmi is now expected to serve 15 years in prison for his role in the conspiracy.
Commenting on the case, Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan explained,
"having admitted his guilt, he will now face justice for giving aid to terrorists he knew full well were dedicated to harming Americans."