New York Times - June 1, 2005
Anti-Muslim bias seen in charges against
man linked to Al Qaeda
By Andrea Elliott and William K. Rashbaum
Tarik Shah, one of two men charged last weekend with conspiring to aid Al Qaeda, was ordered held without bond yesterday in Manhattan federal court, as one of his lawyers said the government had singled him out for being a Muslim.
The other defendant, Dr. Rafiq Sabir, had not yet hired a lawyer when he appeared briefly yesterday in a court in Fort Pierce, Fla..
Mr. Shah, a jazz musician, and Dr. Sabir, a physician, have not entered pleas in the case. The two men, lifelong friends, stand accused of trying to provide support to Al Qaeda, and vowing to use their knowledge in martial arts and medicine to help international terrorism.
After the arraignment, Anthony Ricco, one of Mr. Shah's two lawyers, said the arrest was typical of the government's efforts to cast suspicion on Muslims in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. "He wouldn't be here if he wasn't a Muslim," Mr. Ricco told reporters outside the courthouse.
"I'd characterize it as desperate prosecution on the part of the government," he said. "If you look at the way in which our nation has been attacked, the response has been to arrest people like Tarik Shah, who but for a confidential informant and government involvement wouldn't be here; he'd be playing the bass at a club somewhere."
The men were arrested early Saturday in a sting operation conducted by the F.B.I. Mr. Shah, 42, was picked up in his Bronx apartment, and Dr. Sabir, 50, at his home in Boca Raton, Fla. Dr. Sabir is likely to be sent to New York for prosecution, after his next hearing, on Monday.
Prosecutors said the two men were recorded by a government informer swearing a formal loyalty oath to Al Qaeda. They were charged with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to Al Qaeda.
"Shah committed himself to the path of holy war, to the oath of secrecy, and to abide by the directives of Al Qaeda," according to the criminal complaint filed by prosecutors. "Shah indicated that he understood the oath, and agreed that he would obey the guardians of the oath, namely, Sheikh Osama bin Laden." Dr. Sabir pledged the same oath, the complaint said.
The contention of Mr. Shah's lawyers that Muslims have been unfairly caught up in the government's hunt for terrorists has been echoed in recent days by many Muslims, who expressed a mixture of sadness and skepticism about the case, and described a general malaise in their community.
The case comes on the heels of another that reverberated through mosques and Muslim neighborhoods in New York: the arrest in March of two teenage Muslim girls in New York City on suspicion that they planned to become suicide bombers. The girls were detained on immigration charges after F.B.I. agents searched one of the girl's rooms and seized essays she had written, including one on suicide, according to her family.
Law enforcement authorities have declined to comment on that case, but a few weeks ago, the girls were quietly released. One of the girls returned with her family to her home country, Bangladesh, and the other is back in school in East Harlem.
The two cases have caused Muslims to tread carefully in academic settings, two young men said yesterday as they stood in the foyer of the Islamic Cultural Center on East 96th Street. "In everything we do now we have to be cautious." said Luqman Ellahi, 22, an engineering student who lives on Long Island.
The caution often deters honest debate. Nouman Khan, 27, a professor of Arabic at Nassau Community College, said that he feels "a pressure to not express political opinions, whether it's the war on Iraq or the American Patriot Act."…….
Reuters - May 31, 2005
NY terrorism case 'desperate prosecution' - lawyer
By Gail Appleson
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York martial arts expert who is charged with conspiring to help train al Qaeda members is the victim of a "desperate prosecution on the government's behalf," his lawyer said on Tuesday.
Tarik Ibn Osman Shah was arrested on Friday in New York after a two-year sting operation in which prosecutors said he had been taped pledging support to Osama bin Laden. He is charged with one count of conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda, a designated foreign terrorist organization.
Shah, who is also a professional jazz musician, was presented briefly in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday and was held without bail. After the session, his lawyers told reporters they planned to review the tapes.
Anthony Ricco, one of Shah's lawyers, questioned why it would take the government two years to file a complaint if authorities really thought Shah was dangerous. "If someone is really a threat to our security, it makes me wonder what they are talking about for two years ... That's a very powerful and important fact in this case."
Asked by reporters if this is a case of entrapment and overzealous prosecution, Ricco responded, "It's a sting operation" and said the charges marked a "desperate prosecution on the part of the government." "He wouldn't be here if he wasn't a Muslim," Ricco said.
A federal complaint against Shah and another defendant, Rafiq Sabir, a doctor, was filed on Friday in Manhattan federal court. Sabir was arrested in Boca Raton, Florida. If convicted of the one conspiracy charge, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
Ricco said the men were "long-time" friends.
Prosecutors claim that between 2003 and this month, the two men had multiple meetings and conversations with a confidential source and an undercover FBI agent, who was acting as an al Qaeda recruiter.
During the meetings, Shah agreed to provide martial arts and hand-to-hand combat training to al Qaeda members while Sabir agreed to give medical help to wounded jihad fighters in Saudi Arabia, the complaint said. However, there are no claims that either man actually provided support to terrorists. ….
News Day - May 31, 2005
Lawyer: Terror suspect was set up
By Patricia Hurtado
Lawyers for a martial arts expert and jazz musician accused of plotting to provide material support to al-Qaida slammed the government's case Tuesday, saying their client was set up in an "orchestrated prosecution. "I would characterize this as desperate prosecution on the part of the government," Anthony Ricco, a lawyer for Tarik Shah, said Tuesday.
"If you look at the way our nation has been attacked, the response is to arrest people like Tarik Shah. But for a confidential informant and government involvement, we wouldn't be here. He'd be playing the bass at a club somewhere," he said.
Shah, 42, who was ordered held without bail, waved and smiled at supporters, including his wife, Zakkiyyah, who shouted "As-Salaam-Alaikum," or "peace unto you," as he entered federal court in Manhattan.
Meanwhile, in Fort Pierce, Fla., yesterday, Dr. Rafiq Sabir, 50, told U.S. District Judge James Hopkins that he has not hired an attorney. Hopkins set the next hearing for June 6.
Shah and Sabir are charged with conspiring to provide material support to al-Qaida. They were arrested over the weekend. Each faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
At Shah's brief court appearance in Manhattan, Assistant U.S. Attorney Victor Hou asked U.S. Magistrate-Judge Theodore Katz to withhold bail because Shah posed a flight risk and was a danger to the community.
Erika McDaniel Edwards, who also represents Shah, told Katz she would consent to Shah being held pending a detention hearing. Katz consented and adjourned the case until June 28.
Ricco said outside court that his client and Sabir were "lifelong friends," but declined to describe for how long. He also said his client is a martial arts expert and "world-reknown jazz musician who's recorded with some of the top jazz musicians in the country. He's also a father and a family man."
Ricco and McDaniel Edwards sharply criticized the genesis of the case, which according to the complaint, began nearly two years ago when a confidential source told authorities he had conversations with Shah about conducting "jihad" or holy war.
Ricco said he wondered why the investigation took so long. "It makes me wonder what they have been talking about for the last two years," he said. "If somebody is really a threat to our security, what are they talking about for two years? That's a very powerful and important factor in this case." ……