Updates on Two Political Prisoners – by Stephen Lendman
Earlier articles addressed them, accessed through the following links:
Pakistani Canadians Mahboob Khawaja, his son Momin, and family were wrongfully targeted for alleged involvement in terrorism. Mahboob is an “academic specializing in Strategic Studies with special interests in Western-Islamic Civilizations, Change and Conflict Resolution.”
While working in Saudi Arabia, dozens of Royal Canadian Mounted police arrested his family at gunpoint in Ottawa. They blew open his door, then searched his home lawlessly with no warrant and found nothing. At the same time, Mahboob was arrested in Saudi Arabia, jailed for two weeks, then released. The affair ruined his academic career as a professor of global politics, and Momin’s as a software developer and free man.
In March 2004, he was bogusly accused of a UK bomb plot, becoming the first person charged under Canada’s 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act. Though acquitted on that charge, he was held without trial for over four years, then convicted on October 29, 2008, and sentenced on March 12, 2009, after a bench trial, to ten and a half years (above time already served) for allegedly:
— donating $859 to an Afghan refugee charity; in fact, he gave $25;
— making a device, readily available at retail, to jam cell phone signals and emails, specifically ones relating to Western imperialism;
— providing material support to Afghan resistance fighters, called terrorists; and
— attending an unknown camp during a Pakistan visit.
Appealing before Ontario’s Higher Court from May 18 – 20, 2010, prosecutors restated all trial court charges, including the bogus UK bomb plot. The Lawrence Greenspon-led defense team argued for acquittal on time served.
On December 17, Momin was sentenced to life plus 24 years to be served concurrently, though innocent of all charges. The harsh Appeals Court ruling stressed “the unique nature of terrorism-related offenses,” though none whatsoever were committed.
Based largely on thought crime emails, the sentence was politically motivated. Not a shred of evidence justified it. It’s the wrong time to be Muslim in Canada and America, with prosecutorial injustice in both countries engineered to convict, regardless of innocence. A Supreme Court appeal is planned, but given Canada’s climate of fear and jihad against Islam, victims like Momin stand little chance for justice.
On December 20, Richard Fidler’s article headlined “Canadian courts embrace the ‘war on terror,’ ” said:
A three-panel hanging Appeals Court wrongfully punished Momin for his alleged attacks on “Western culture and civilization,” what he never did, in fact, or imagined. Yet his life now irrevocably has changed. Minimally, he faces another 10 years in prison before eligibility for parole. Waging war on Islam, Canadian courts rush to convict, replicating the same American injustices. Indeed, it’s the wrong time in both countries to be Muslim.
Oscar Lopez Rivera – Wrongfully Imprisoned for Supporting Puerto Rican Independence
Longtime Chicago area organizer, activist, and campaigner for Puerto Rican independence, the FBI arrested him in 1981, calling him an alleged Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN) leader. Though Rivera neither confirms or denies it, Puerto Rico has been colonized for over 112 years. Freedom fighters like FALN members seek independence, a right international law and annual UN resolutions affirm but not Washington, the repressive occupying power.
In 1981, Rivera was convicted of armed robbery, miscellaneous charges, and seditious conspiracy – sedition pertaining to actions to incite insurrection or rebellion; conspiracy by working with others to achieve it.
Initially sentenced to 55 years, 15 more were added in 1988, based on spurious charges of participating in an escape conspiracy, the new sentence to begin when the original one ends.
In 1999, the Clinton administration offered him and 11 other Puerto Rican nationalists clemency. He declined, saying it required him to serve 10 more years with good conduct. Had he accepted, he’d be free. His sister, Zenaida Lopez, said he refused because on parole, he’d be in “prison outside prison.”
On January 5, a US Parole Commission recommended he remain in prison until his mandatory 2023 release date or serve another 15 years before parole reconsideration, whichever comes first.
The entire hearing process was engineered to deny. Rivera attended handcuffed to a chain around his waist despite his attorney’s objections. Eight Bureau of Prisons staff guarded him, though he posed no flight risk. Testimonies of four 1975 New York explosion victims were introduced, a crime unrelated to Rivera’s conviction. The Puerto Rico Bar Association’s observer status petition was denied by non-response.
A seven-page Chicago US Attorney Patrick Firzgerald political diatribe against Rivera was introduced, listing unrelated acts and unsupported conclusions.
Defense attorney Jan Susler argued that he met the criteria for release, has been a model prisoner, and was never accused of any rules violations. Moreover, that his release would not lesson the seriousness of charges (true or false) or promote disrespect for the law, and that a freed Rivera wouldn’t jeopardize public welfare.
In addition, she stressed the Clinton administration’s determination that his sentence was disproportionately long, that he was offered clemency, and that released political prisoners become productive, fully integrated citizens. No matter. He was denied.
Days before his hearing, right-wing opponents, in fact, flooded the media with lies and innuendos and barraged the Commission with anti-Rivera phone calls. However, when his supporters called, they reached no one. Clearly, the fix was in to reject him on political grounds to keep an effective public voice silenced.
The National Boricua Human Rights Network (NBHRN) continues working for his release through petitions, phone messages, elected officials, religious and community leaders, and enlisting other activist supporters for justice. He was wrongfully incarcerated in the first place, victimized like hundreds of other political prisoners, many thousands, including undocumented Latinos.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.