News Articles

Inmates go to bat for Aref and Hossain

The View from Here (column) by Carl Strock

Schenectady Daily Gazette, published March 22, 2007

         Here is something I have never seen before — jail inmates writing letters in support of fellow inmates, endorsing them and vouching for their good character and benign influence.

         It happened at the Rensselaer County Jail, where men confined to the protective custody unit, also known as solitary confinement, have lately been let out of their cells for much of the day and allowed to mix with each other.

         They have gotten together and written letters in support of Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain, the two Albany Muslims who were set up by the FBI, convicted of supporting terrorism and recently sentenced to 15 years in prison.

         The two are in the jail awaiting transfer to federal prisons. Yassin has been there for 17 months, Mohammed for five months.

         I have copies of the letters, which were delivered into the hands of one of Yassin’s lawyers, unsolicited, and I herewith quote excerpts from them, preserving the original spelling and punctuation so you may have them in their full flavor.

         At the same time, as a token of my impartiality, I invite the FBI or the U.S. attorney’s office to provide me with copies of any letters written in support of “Malik,” the Pakistani sleazebag they employed to trick Yassin and Mohammed into a money exchange that could be used against them, and I offer to print excerpts of those letters also. I believe they would make an instructive contrast, if indeed there are any.

         I omit the names of the authors of these letters to protect them from possible retaliation.

          “I am an inmate in R.C.J. [Rensselaer County Jail] who has had the privilege of getting to know Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain. I have spent the past 6 weeks with them in Rensselaer County Jail and have gotten to know them fairly well. I don’t believe these two men have the heart to harm any one or any thing.

         “I remember when I first came to R.C.J. I had nothing to eat, no health care products and no writing materials. I had only my jail uniform.

         “Yassin’s cell is next to mine and Mohammed’s cell is two cells over on the other side. Yassin gave me any thing and everything that I needed and wanted. On a daily basis I’ve seen Yassin give all of his good food away to others so they may be full as he eats the other food that no one else wants. This godly act is only done out of love and never out of fear.

         “As for Mohammed, I don’t believe this man would ever think of hurting anyone. This man spends a great part of his day, every day just about, helping others find thier way in life and faith. He is always helping me to better my spirit and get closer to God. …

         “After getting to know these two men I can say that I would never fear them in any situation. I am not defending these two men based on lies or to stabilize my position in life or my position with God but, because they are great men who are true to heart. …

         “We should be honored to have such wonderful people in our country.”

         “These are men of peace and love, not of hate and murder.”

         “I learned a lot from these two wonderful men also they gave me lots of tips on life. I hope they get out real soon so they can be with ther family’s where they belong they are innocence. Yes INNOCENCE.”

         “Aref and Hossain have taught me how to live right and I appreciate them of doing that even when they was facing there situation at hand. So I hope that God will be with them were ever they go.” “I am glad to have known these men.” “I don’t believe that these two men have the heart to harm anyone or anything.” It is a shame that two good men can be entrapped targeted and persecuted to help the government save face in the face of the media.

          “The case against imam Yassin and preacher Mohammed is a blaten showing of the severe miscarriage of justice the government is capable of inflicting upon us knowing being to witch they’ve been used as an escape goat. It’s disgusting to know liberty and justice can be stripped from an individual for such purposes in shah allah alls well that end’s well. God bless these men.”

          “I believe they didn’t get justice, and they should be back with their famileys.”

         “I have been blessed to know these two men for almost 1 year now. I too am Muslim and know for a fact that any act of terror is against everything we believe in. This plot by our government to entrap these men is a disgrace. They are peaceful law abiding citizens and deserve to be trusted as such.”

         “I am in RCJ with both of these men they are my brothers and I believe they’re not guilty.”

         “I believe these men are being persecuted because of their nationality and did not receive the fairness given to the United States laws and statures of this country their rights for fairness have been violated and they should be reconsidered for fairness given by our constitution.”

         And so on. Sixteen notes and letters in all, in fractured English but bell-clear in tone and sentiment. If anyone knows of an equivalent situation, I’d be happy to hear about it.

Carl Strock can be reached at 395-3085 or by e-mail at

Click here to read some of the letters


January 6, 2008

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