DALLAS — February 2, 2016 — Last month, attorneys with Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America, a nonprofit law center funded through a generous grant from Muslim Legal Fund of America, filed a Memorandum of Law in support of Ziyad Yaghi’s petition for Habeas Corpus (Case No: 5:09-cr-00216-FL).
Yaghi was convicted in October of 2011 by a North Carolina jury of conspiracy to provide material support for terrorism and other related charges – despite the fact that there was nodirect evidence to support these accusations. The circumstantial evidence prosecutors introduced during trial included Yaghi’s travels to Jerusalem and Jordan for family visits and sightseeing, Facebook posts and second-hand accounts of his political and religious beliefs.
Prosecutors called upon Evan Kohlmann as an expert witness. During trial, Kohlmann testified that Yaghi’s actions fit the profile of a “homegrown terrorist” interested in joining the “global jihad movement.”
Individuals with an expertise in the fields of sociology, terrorism and national security, who include former FBI Special Agent James Feldkamp as well as professionals from academia, provided reports demonstrating that the theories Kohlmann presented to the court during trial were never published, peer reviewed or accepted by the academic community. Professor Miller noted that Kohlmann “has been severely criticized by leading figures in his purported field of expertise and moreover has been criticized by the High Court in England and Wales for distorting evidence through selective quotations.” Moreover, Kohlmann’s mentor and former employer is Islamophobe Steve Emerson. Emerson was described by the British Prime Minister David Cameron as “a complete idiot” after Emerson appeared on Fox News and described the city of Birmingham as an example of a “totally Muslim [city] where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in.”
Representatives from MLFA say that such cases pose significant threats to people’s ability to get fair trials in America.
“If all it takes to convict someone in this country is a discredited, pseudo-expert witness testifying that your personal beliefs warrant sending you to prison for decades, then what does that say about prosecutor’s view of freedom of speech or due process of law?” asked Khalil Meek, executive director of MLFA. “The accused in America have rights, and the right to a fair trial, to not be convicted without evidence is crucial for maintaining a free society.”
Despite the lack of credibility of Kohlmann as a witness, Yaghi’s trial attorney failed to ask Kohlmann a single question on cross examination or call any witnesses to testify for his client’s defense. Yaghi, an innocent young man, was sentenced to over 30 years in federal prison, a result that CLCMA attorneys say was aided by the ineffectiveness of Yaghi’s trial attorney.
Attorneys with CLCMA submitted five expert reports challenging Kohlmann’s testimony and more than 30 exhibits, including affidavits from friends and family that he visited on his two trips overseas.
The Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America, Inc., is a nonprofit law center dedicated to defending the civil liberties and legal rights of Muslims in American courtrooms and litigating issues that are important to the Muslim community. CLCMA is funded by a generous grant from the Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA).
Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA) is a national civil liberties legal fund that defends the U.S. Bill of Rights by supporting legal cases involving civil liberty encroachments. Established in 2001, MLFA has defended freedom of speech, freedom of religion, right to a fair trial, due process of law and many of our nation’s civil liberties.