Section: Capital Region, Times Union
Date: Friday, June 9, 2006
JUSTICE LOST IN DIARY'S TRANSLATION?
By FRED LeBRUN
The Justice Department's year-and-a-half-old quasi-terrorist case against an Albany mosque leader looks more ridiculous at every turn.
Yassin M. Aref, 35, is in solitary confinement in the Rensselaer County jail until a September trial. Although issues related to wiretaps by the government in establishing its case will in all likelihood delay that for months, at least.
On Wednesday, Terry Kindlon, Aref's attorney, filed a ruthlessly specific and compelling rebuttal in U.S. District Court in Albany to every point in the government's wobbly case as part of yet another bail application.
The bottom line to the 43-page memorandum is this: If what Kindlon and his associates are alleging is true, then the government not only has no case against Aref, but it owes him a profound apology. Because, according to Kindlon, in the zeal to make anything stick to Aref the government has deliberately mistranslated the imam's personal diary, which was used against him; and the government has distorted and outright lied to create the impression Aref was a terrorist sympathizer who had insinuated his way into this country as a mole.
Kindlon's memorandum blows the government's case to splinters but also raises serious concerns about the government's tactics, not to mention the court's complicity as a co-prosecutor instead of a referee.
"The government's brief is so full of illogic, contradictions, misrepresentations, mistranslations and outright untruth, that the Court can put no trust in it whatsoever. It is a shameful tapestry of lies designed to confuse anyone who reads it into accepting a fantasy world of government paranoia," the memorandum states broadly.
But it then goes into very specific detail of individual word translations, the timing of when these words were written or spoken against the world stage - in other words, context and perspective. What we're left with is a 180-degree different impression than that alleged by the U.S. Justice Department when Aref was arrested in August of 2004.
Further, the memorandum spells out what the government didn't put in its case, a volume of material showing emphatically how Aref was not aligned with terrorists, rejected their actions and philosophies, wanted nothing to do with them and only advocated nonviolence and respect for U.S. laws. Further, he never even applied for U.S. citizenship. He was placed here by a random draw among refugees by the United Nations.
Now granted, no matter how skillfully reasoned and researched and scholarly the Kurdish translations are, this is still a document from the defense attorney.
But make no mistake, it is a powerful rebuttal, and unless the government pulls a whole warren full of bunnies out of the hat at trial, odds are the United States is going to be embarrassed here. Mightily. And so will the court.
Because as this case lingers, it's taking on an odor, and the government and the federal court in Albany are put on trial just as much as Mr. Aref. Plus the doubts raised on the national level by the actions and endorsements of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales certainly don't tip the scales in favor of the government.
Is this simply sloppy and overzealous prosecution, or are we witnessing persecution? After all, what kinds of legal protections do we owe a guy from the Middle East with a name like Yassin Aref, anyway?
The emphatic answer to that better be every legal protection, otherwise everlasting shame on us.
Fred LeBrun can be reached at 454-5453 or by e-mail at email@example.com.