The last person to see Syed Mehmood Hashmi as a free man was his friend Mohammed Haroon Saleem, who on June 6, 2006, drove Hashmi to London’s Heathrow Airport, walked him to the security checkpoint, and watched him hoist his bag and head for the gate. But Hashmi never made his flight. At passport control, constables pulled him from the line and told him they had an extradition warrant on behalf of the US government. He was to be charged with aiding Al Qaeda.
Today Hashmi, who is 29, sits in a windowless cell, in solitary confinement. He is not allowed to watch television or listen to the radio or read a newspaper unless it is at least 30 days old and censored. He is not allowed to speak to guards, other inmates, or the media, or to write anyone but his attorney and his family (once a week on three single-sided pages). The only people cleared to visit, besides his lawyer, are his mother and father, but he couldn’t see them for three months after he was caught shadowboxing in his cell—an infraction that cost him visiting privileges. Hashmi’s lawyer, Sean Maher, says the isolation is slowly driving his client mad.
Hashmi is not in Guantanamo Bay, nor is he an enemy combatant. He’s a US citizen, born in Pakistan and raised in Flushing, Queens, facing trial in federal court in Manhattan. His home for the past two years has been the Special Housing Unit at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a stone’s throw from the Brooklyn Bridge. Hashmi might be guilty, he might not. We may never know—because when he goes before judge and jury later this year he won’t get a fair trial. Much of the government’s evidence against him is secret, and he can’t see it because he doesn’t have a security clearance. Maher, who does have a security clearance, can’t see much of it either. Maher finds this incredible.
“There are cases across the country where men are being convicted and given astronomical sentences under the most inhumane and draconian conditions possible,” says Maher. “Animals at the Bronx Zoo get treated better than this.” [continued…]