CLCMA recently petitioned the Supreme Court to grant review of a case on behalf of its client, Dr. Rafiq Sabir, who was wrongfully convicted in 2007 of attempting to support terrorism. The facts of Dr. Sabir’s case are troubling and his conviction unjust.
Dr. Sabir is a physician who was born and raised in New York and who converted to Islam in the 1980s. Years later, unbeknownst to Dr. Sabir, a friend of his made promises on his behalf to an undercover FBI agent who was posing as an al Qaida recruiter. When Dr. Sabir’s friend introduced him to the agent, the agent asked him to repeat a bayat (or pledge) in Arabic. The problem: Dr. Sabir did not understand Arabic beyond casual niceties and some religious phrases so he struggled to follow the agent’s words.
At his trial, the government claimed that Dr. Sabir pledged allegiance to al Qaida. Dr. Sabir urged his former attorney to hire an Arabic language expert to corroborate his testimony that he did not understand the pledge was to al Qaida. The attorney failed to do so. Dr. Sabir’s trial reflects the common misunderstanding that any Muslim American must necessarily speak and understand Arabic. This is precisely what the prosecutor suggested to the jury.
Dr. Sabir was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
In 2017, CLCMA attorneys took over Dr. Sabir’s case and learned during their investigation that the government also unlawfully withheld important evidence at trial that would have shown Dr. Sabir made no plans to support al Qaida.
Dr. Sabir and CLCMA filed motions seeking to overturn his conviction based on his former attorney’s failure to obtain an Arabic language expert as well as the government’s suppression of evidence. After the lower court refused to consider his motions and new evidence, the Second Court of Appeals declined to accept his appeal.
CLCMA is hopeful that the Supreme Court will send his case back to the Second Circuit so that he may finally have a fair day in court as the law guarantees.
The Petition is available at this link: https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/21/21-5841/193894/20210928123018491_2021.09.28 – Sabir Petition.pdf