NYC: family deported in specious terror case

As we have noted, this is the latest in a wave of dangerously specious terror cases which have produced an atmosphere of paranoia in New York City. Now it seems the convict’s entire family is to be deported. From the Washington Post, Jan. 11:

NEW YORK – A day after a man was sentenced to 30 years in prison for conspiring to bomb Manhattan’s Herald Square, his parents and sister were detained by federal immigration officials seeking to deport them.

Shahwar Matin Siraj, 24, was sentenced Monday afternoon for plotting to blow up a subway station in the Midtown shopping district known for its Macy’s store. Early Tuesday morning, his family was arrested at its home in Jackson Heights, Queens.

Police officials hailed the sentencing of Siraj, a Pakistani immigrant, as a victory against homegrown terrorism.

But Siraj contended that he was entrapped by a police informant, who he said inflamed his anger at the United States by showing him photographs of American acts of abuse against Muslims, including incidents at the Abu Ghraib prison, and prodded him to consider violence. The informant, Osama Eldawoody, was recruited by the New York City Police Department after Sept. 11, 2001, to monitor radical Muslims in the city.

Siraj never obtained explosives, nor made a timetable for an attack. He has no known connection to any terrorist organization.

His family has lived in the United States since 1999 and has been seeking asylum since 2003, said their attorney, Mona Shah.

A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that detained the family, said that a final order of removal has been issued against the father, Siraj Abdul Rehman, 54. But Shah said that case is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

The immigration cases of Siraj’s mother, Shahina Parveen, 50, and his sister, Sanya Siraj, 19, are dependent on the father’s case, Shah said.

Mark Thorn, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman, could not say why the family was detained the day after the sentencing.

“The administrative arrests were timed so they would not conflict with the criminal prosecution or sentencing,” he said.

But Shah charged that the arrests effectively muted the family’s protest after the sentencing of the son.

“It’s not American, to punish one person and the next day arrest the entire family,” Shah said. “This is basically silencing them.”

The family is being held at a detention facility in Elizabeth, N.J.

This is how Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) tells the story:

At 5am on the morning of January 9th, 2007, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raided the Queens home of and arrested three members (father, mother, and daughter) of the Siraj family, a tight-knit Pakistani family that has been caught up in the U.S. “War on Terror’s” most recent act of racial and religious profiling. Tuesday’s deplorable raid on the home of an innocent family is amongst dozens of other targeted, prejudiced sweeps across the country that are tearing Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities apart. The arrests occurred less than 12 hours after their young son, Shahawar Matin Siraj, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for alleged terrorism-related charges emerging from a clandestine NYPD-paid informant’s entrapment.

ICE officials are currently falsely reporting that the family was arrested on immigration-related charges and that the father’s appeal for an asylum case was “denied.” The reality is that the father’s appeal is still pending in the Second Circuit Court and has not been decided, and that the mother and teenage daughter do not have any immigration cases or deportation orders pending against them. Given the high-profile media attention on their son’s case, in which there were many underhanded legal irregularities and rights violations, these arrests are being seen by the community as an attempt to silence and make an example of the family through harassment. The family maintains that their son was ensnared by an NYPD informant, evidence of which the court did not properly consider, resulting in an unfair trial and sentencing. The family has filed a notice of appeal for their son’s case.

Both the father and the mother have ongoing and severe medical conditions, and the mother was only allowed to take two days of medicine at the time of the arrests. All family members are currently being held at Elizabeth Detention Center in Elizabeth, NJ, but they may be moved or separated to different facilities.

DRUM, as a community based organization that works with Muslim and South Asian immigrants and has seen the targeting of this community before and especially after 9/11, is calling on all concerned individuals and organizations to contact the ICE Field Office Director, at 973-645-3666, and demand that (a) the Siraj family be immediately released on their own recognizance or a reasonable bond, and, (b) that ICE stop targeting immigrant communities, in particular Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians. DRUM is also calling on all people of conscience to call Warden Charlotte Collins at Elizabeth Detention Center, at 908-352-3776, to demand that (a) they provide urgent medical care and medication for the mother and father, and (b) that the Siraj family be kept together, particularly the mother and daughter not be separated, and, (c) to pro-actively facilitate direct communication and visitation between the family and their son, Matin, who is being held at Metropolitan Detention Center.

DRUM, alongside countless civil and human-rights organizations and concerned citizens will continue to expose the ongoing injustices of the “War on Terror” against this family and all targeted communities.

See our last posts on the immigration crackdown, the Siraj case and fear in New York City.