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Computer Student on Trial for Aid to Muslim Web Sites

by TIMOTHY EGAN Wednesday, Apr. 28, 2004 at 9:41 PM

"We very much wanted to be involved in this case because it is by far the most radical prosecution we've seen under the Patriot Act," said Ann Beeson, associate legal director of the national A.C.L.U.



"We very much wanted to be involved in this case because it

is by far the most radical prosecution we've seen under the

Patriot Act," said Ann Beeson, associate legal director of

the national A.C.L.U. "You shouldn't be held liable for

what somebody else said. Under this theory, you could

charge the electrician who services the wrong client."



Thought you might be interested in reading this article. Perhaps Ms. Beeson

isn't familar with the United States. vs. Sherman Martin Austin.

> Computer Student on Trial for Aid to Muslim Web Sites

>

> April 27, 2004

> By TIMOTHY EGAN

>

>

>

>

>

> BOISE, Idaho, April 23 - Not long after the terrorist

> attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a group of Muslim students led

> by a Saudi Arabian doctoral candidate held a candlelight

> vigil in the small college town of Moscow, Idaho, and

> condemned the attacks as an affront to Islam.

>

> Today, that graduate student, Sami Omar al-Hussayen, is on

> trial in a heavily guarded courtroom here, accused of

> plotting to aid and to maintain Islamic Web sites that

> promote jihad.

>

> As a Web master to several Islamic organizations, Mr.

> Hussayen helped to maintain Internet sites with links to

> groups that praised suicide bombings in Chechnya and in

> Israel. But he himself does not hold those views, his

> lawyers said. His role was like that of a technical editor,

> they said, arguing that he could not be held criminally

> liable for what others wrote.

>

> Civil libertarians say the case poses a landmark test of

> what people can do or whom they can associate with in the

> age of terror alerts. It is one of the few times anyone has

> been prosecuted under language in the antiterrorism law

> known as the USA Patriot Act, which makes it a crime to

> provide "expert guidance or assistance" to groups deemed

> terrorist.

>

> "Somebody who fixes a fax machine that is owned by a group

> that may advocate terrorism could be liable," said David

> Cole, a Georgetown University law professor who argued

> against the expert guidance part of the antiterrorism law

> this year, in a case where it was struck down by a federal

> judge.

>

> Mr. Hussayen, 34, a father of three who was pursuing a

> doctorate in computer sciences at the University of Idaho,

> is charged with three counts of conspiracy to support

> terrorism and 11 counts of visa and immigration fraud. His

> trial opened on April 14 and is expected to last until

> June.

>

> The trial offers conflicting views of Mr. Hussayen, a son

> of the Saudi middle class. Defense lawyers have portrayed

> him as a loving family man who embraces Western values

> while holding to his Islamic faith; the prosecution team

> has presented him as a secret conspirator, aiding the cause

> of terrorism through his computer skills.

>

> [In a ruling that bolstered Mr. Hussayen's case on Monday,

> Judge Edward J. Lodge of Federal District Court in Idaho

> would not let prosecutors show the jury a Web page that

> encourages suicide bombings. The judge said the government

> must prove that Mr. Hussayen created the page or endorsed

> its contents.]

>

> Earlier this year, Judge Audrey B. Collins of the Federal

> District Court in Los Angeles, struck down a part of the

> antiterrorism law being used in this trial, ruling that it

> was overly broad and vague. But Judge Collins did not

> extend her ruling beyond the one case in California.

>

> President Bush made several recent campaign-style stops on

> behalf of the antiterrorism law, saying it is an essential

> tool for law enforcement.

>

> "The Patriot Act defends our liberty, is what it does,

> under the Constitution of the United States," Mr. Bush said

> in Buffalo on Tuesday.

>

> Idaho, one of the most Republican states, has become an

> unlikely home of opposition to the act.

>

> The state's senior senator, the Republican Larry E. Craig,

> and Representative C. L. Otter, also a Republican, have

> sponsored bills to amend the act, which they have called a

> threat to civil liberties.

>

> Mr. Hussayen's lead lawyer, David Nevin, is best known for

> his defense in 1993 of Kevin Harris, who was involved in a

> standoff with government agents at a cabin in Ruby Ridge,

> Idaho, along with Randall C. Weaver. That case, in which

> Mr. Weaver's wife and teenage son were shot and killed by

> government agents, is a cause célebre among mainly

> right-leaning civil libertarians.

>

> Some of Mr. Hussayen's supporters say they see a similar

> kind of government abuse in his trial.

>

> "It's an illustration of how much power the government can

> bring against somebody," said John Dickinson, a retired

> professor of computer sciences who was Mr. Hussayen's

> doctoral adviser at the University of Idaho. "It should

> scare anybody."

>

> Mr. Dickinson said he was interviewed by the F.B.I. for

> several hours after Mr. Hussayen's arrest in February 2003.

> "They kept saying his Ph.D. program was a front and that

> the person I knew was only the tip of this monstrous

> iceberg," he said. "But I've yet to hear one thing the

> government has said since then that has made me question

> his innocence."

>

> Justice Department officials and prosecutors refused to

> comment on the broader implications of the case, citing the

> trial. But in court documents, the government makes a case

> that Mr. Hussayen funneled money to Islamic charities with

> terrorist ties and that he posted calls for jihad by

> different Saudi sheiks.

>

> In the indictment, the government charged that Mr. Hussayen

> provided "computer advice and assistance, communications

> facilities, and financial instruments and services that

> assisted in the creation and maintenance of Internet Web

> sites and other Internet medium intended to recruit and

> raise funds for violent jihad, particularly in Palestine

> and Chechnya."

>

> And they have argued that Mr. Hussayen's technical

> assistance, even if he did not share the beliefs of the

> groups he helped, were like providing a gun to an armed

> robber.

>

> Most of the facts are not in dispute. Mr. Hussayen's

> lawyers said that he gave money to legitimate Islamic

> charities and that his Web site work was protected by the

> First Amendment. The Web sites he maintained also posted

> views opposing jihad, they said.

>

> The government has argued that Mr. Hussayen, a Saudi

> citizen who is the son of a retired Saudi minister of

> education, does not have all the protections of an American

> citizen. They said he abused his privilege as a student by

> working for computer sites that advocate terror. His

> friends in the Idaho college town may have known one side

> of him, the prosecutor, Kim Lindquist, said in his opening

> remarks to the jury, but they seldom saw "the private face

> of extreme jihad."

>

> The Saudi government is paying for the defense of Mr.

> Hussayen, his family said.

>

> One of the charities that Mr. Hussayen supported, Islamic

> Assembly of North America, still operates out of Ann Arbor,

> Mich. On its Web site, the group says its mission is to

> promote the spread of Islam, and the group solicits money

> from the public. Mr. Nevin said the charity has never been

> classified as terrorist by the government.

>

> But the government said the Michigan charity was one of the

> Web sites that "accommodated materials that advocated

> violence against the United States."

>

> Both sides in this case are looking to appeals that will

> probably turn on the part of the antiterrorism law thrown

> out by Judge Collins in January.

>

> In that case, the judge ruled on behalf of several

> humanitarian groups that wanted to provide support to the

> nonviolent arms of two organizations designated as

> terrorist in Turkey and Sri Lanka. Judge Collins wrote that

> "a woman who buys cookies at a bake sale outside her

> grocery store to support displaced Kurdish refugees to find

> new homes could be held liable" if the sale was sponsored

> by a group designated terrorist.

>

> The American Civil Liberties Union, which is trying to

> overturn the antiterrorism law in court, tried to join the

> Idaho case but was rebuffed by Judge Lodge.

>

> "We very much wanted to be involved in this case because it

> is by far the most radical prosecution we've seen under the

> Patriot Act," said Ann Beeson, associate legal director of

> the national A.C.L.U. "You shouldn't be held liable for

> what somebody else said. Under this theory, you could

> charge the electrician who services the wrong client."

>

>

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/27/national/27BOIS.html?ex=1084123429&ei=1&en=8d199022d75c782c

>

>

> ---------------------------------

>

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> Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

>

----- Original Message -----

From: "jennifer ruggiero" jmi46@sbcglobal.net>

To: "Soula at MCLI" soula@mcli.org>; jmi46@sbcglobal.net>

Sent: Thursday, April 15, 2004 9:09 PM

Subject: Re: story on Sherman for a book



Soula at MCLI wrote on 4/5/04 5:42 pm:

yes!

----- Original Message -----

From: "jennifer martin" jmi46@sbcglobal.net> To: "Soula at MCLI"

soula@mcli.org>

Sent: Monday, April 05, 2004 2:40 PM

Subject: Re: story on Sherman for a book



> I'll read it over and get back to you on Tuesday. Is this OK.

>

> Soula at MCLI soula@mcli.org> wrote:Dear Jennifer, I am on the

shermanaustinlegal list (as sc@lmi.net), and I work for a human rights org

that is compiling a book called "Challenging US

> Human Rights Violations since 9/11". We want to include Sherman's story. I

thought it only made sense to run it past you for error-checking. All

reports are short, just a page or two.

>

> thanks,

> --Soula Culver

> MCLI Staff

>

> ---------------

>

> Report 4.8

> African American Teenager Sentenced for Website

>

>

>

> On January 24, 2002, 25 armed FBI and Secret Service agents surrounded

Sherman Austin's home. Austin is an African-American; he was 18 years old at

> the time. For six hours the agents proceeded to seize computer equipment,

protest signs and other items under a warrant that contained two charges:

1:

> "distribution of explosives information with the intent that the

information

> be used for or in furtherance of an activity that constitutes a federal

crime of violence," and 2: "alleged illegal computer activity." Agents

questioned Austin at length but left the premises without making an arrest.

> (Merlin Chowkwanyun, A Strange Legal Journey: The Case of Sherman Austin,

http://www. counterpunch.org/merlin10112003.html , October 11-13, 2003.)

>

> According to the FBI, Austin and http://www.raisethefist.com, the

anarchist

> web site he ran from his home, had been under surveillance by the

government

> because of the website's provocative language and links to other web sites

that provided bomb-making instructions. (Steven Mikulan, Accidental

Anarchist, LA Weekly, July 11-17, 2003).

>

> The website, called the Reclaim Guide, that led to government action was

part of a sub-section of Austin's site known as an "open publishing

newswire." Newswires allow people to post, remove and alter web pages they

themselves created and authored. Austin could have hosted the website

without knowing its content.

>

> The web site containing the explosives information was uploaded and

authored

> by an affluent, white, Orange County, CA teenager. Agents interviewed the

teenager. The FBI report of the interview indicated that agents showed the

teen printouts of the page and the teen stated that he had authored the

Reclaim Guide and Austin hosted it. The FBI report specifically cited the

Reclaim Guide as the site that contained the explosives information.

>

> Agents did not arrest the white teenager, nor was he ever charged with any

crime.

>

> On February 2nd, 2002, NYPD arrested Austin and 25 others for protesting

against the World Economic Forum. After their release, the FBI arrested him.

> Authorities held him for 11 days in two New York facilities; then they

transferred him to a Bureau of Prisons facility in Oklahoma where

authorities held him for two days and then released him without charges.

>

> In the first week of August 2002, federal prosecutors offered Austin a

plea agreement that, if accepted, would have had him plead guilty to only

one charge - a distribution of information with intent. If Austin accepted

the agreement, federal prosecutors would recommend a sentence of one month

in prison, three months in a community correctional facility, and

> three years of supervised release. Austin did not originally accept the

plea, but he later learned that not accepting the plea might result in a

> 20-year sentence.

>

> On Thursday, Sept 30, 2002, Austin entered the courtroom of federal Judge

Stephen V. Wilson to plead guilty. Judge Wilson rejected the plea, stating

that the one-month prison sentence was too light.

>

> In February 2003, another plea was entered with a sentence of

> 6-12 months. In his sentenci

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