MLFA Funds Motion to Reverse Hayat Conviction

DALLAS — May 5, 2014 — Representatives for the Muslim Legal Fund of America said that the organization is financially supporting expenses related to the 2255 motion, the equivalent of a habeas corpus petition, in the case of U.S. v. Hayat, et al. (Case Number: 2:05-CR-00240-GEB), to argue for Hamid Hayat’s innocence and freedom.

During an interview with PBS Frontline, retired F.B.I. agent James Wedick said agents and prosecutors “did not have the evidence that they needed to prosecute … and they were willing to allow [Hayat] to be convicted based on hysteria, and they knew it.”

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As part of this hysteria, the U.S. Attorney’s Office held a press conference announcing Hayat’s arrest and asserting that federal law enforcement had uncovered an Al Qaeda cell in Hayat’s hometown of Lodi, California — a claim the government later admitted to be false, according to attorney Dennis Riordan.

Riordan said that prosecutors never presented evidence to support the government’s claim that Hayat attending terrorist training camps in Pakistan. The key piece of evidence used by prosecutors was a written prayer for protection Hayat kept with him. Prosecutors argued that Hayat’s possession of this written prayer, which is a common practice in Pakistani Muslim culture, demonstrates the defendant’s intention to harm America.

“We believe that this is the most important legal case involving Muslim interests currently in courts of this country,” said Riordan. “This motion to vacate Hayat’s conviction is currently the best vehicle for exposing the harmful effects of anti-Muslim bias in American courtrooms.”

Riordan also said that the “government suppressed powerful evidence in its possession” that would have proved Hayat’s innocence. The legal team currently working on this case includes the law firm of Riordan and Horgan and attorneys Martha Boersch, Ted Sampsell-Jones, Layla Shirani, and Michael Freedman.

“We have now obtained eighteen sworn declarations from on the ground alibi witnesses in Pakistan, whose testimony will conclusively establish that Hamid never went to a camp there,” explained Riordan. “We also have a declaration from an expert on the camps that the Balakot camp was closed by the Pakistani government before the time-frame U.S. prosecutors claimed Hamid was supposed to have attended it.”

MLFA executive director Khalil Meek said that this case is troubling because prayer, a First Amendment activity, was used as evidence in the trial.

“Hayat was essentially convicted for possessing a prayer written on paper that asked God for protection. Imagine what impact this will have on everyone’s First Amendment rights if this conviction stands,” said Meek. “Throwing people in jail because of their faith goes against the founding principles of this great nation. America is better than this.”

MLFA provided critical assistance to this case by supporting efforts to obtain the services of investigators and expert witnesses. Attorneys provided their legal services pro-bono. MLFA is funding expenses the legal team accrue during the investigation of this case.

The Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA) is a national 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.