Times Square suspect due in court after top lawyer objects

By admin
Tuesday, May 18, 2010 16:40 EDT
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The chief suspect in the attempted Times Square car bombing was to appear Tuesday in federal court in New York for the first time since his arrest two weeks ago, officials said.

Faisal Shahzad “is expected to appear in Manhattan federal court at an undetermined time later today,” the US attorney for the district said.

“Prosecutors made their announcement on the same day a lawyer wrote a Manhattan federal judge demanding that Shahzad be produced in court,” the Associated Press reports. “New York attorney Ron Kuby, in a letter to the chief U.S. District Court judge in Manhattan, accused authorities of violating Shahzad’s rights by ‘squeezing him for information’ in secret.”

Shahzad is accused of leaving a malfunctioning car bomb in the packed theater district on May 1. He was arrested May 3 as he tried to fly to Dubai from John F. Kennedy Airport.

He faces five charges including attempted use of weapons of mass destruction and attempting acts of terrorism across national boundaries, both of which carry maximum sentences of life in prison.

The US citizen has not appeared in court since his arrest. Officials said he waived his rights to a speedy hearing.

It also remains unclear whether he has asked for a lawyer.

During his detention, Shahzad “has provided valuable intelligence from which further investigative action has been taken. The investigation into the attempted Times Square bombing continues,” the US attorney’s office said.

US officials say that Shahzad is connected to Pakistani Taliban insurgents and President Barack Obama has sent two senior national security aides there to join the investigation.

Federal agents last week also arrested three Pakistani men in the northeastern United States and said they were suspected of funneling money to Shahzad. However, they were not charged with terrorism.

A Times Square street vendor noticed the bomb fizzling in the back of an SUV allegedly parked there by Shahzad and alerted police, who evacuated the area.

A 53-hour manhunt ensued, ending with Shahzad’s arrest as his plane was about to taxi for take-off to Dubai.

Since then, New York has seen a string of false bomb alerts requiring street evacuations and response from the bomb squad.

The Associated Press article adds, “Kuby doesn’t represent Shahzad. But in the letter, he argued that federal authorities — by holding Shahzad for ‘an unprecedented third week of captivity’ — were violating criminal procedures requiring suspects to be promptly presented in court.”

A suspect buried in the bowels of a Manhattan version of Guantanamo … is essentially without power to compel the government to comply” with the procedures, he wrote.

Without an appearance, “there is no reason to think the waiver is voluntary,” Kuby wrote.

The website for Kuby’s firm states,

The Law Office of Ronald L. Kuby has represented some of the most reviled and revered people in some of the most high-profile criminal and civil rights actions in the United States.

Attorneys in this office have represented individuals accused of bombing the World Trade Center; Colin Ferguson, the Long Island Railroad gunman; renowned photographer Spencer Tunick; the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club; prominent labor unions; accused airplane hijackers; The All-Mighty Latin King and Queen Nation; Malcolm X’s daughter, charged with conspiracy to murder Minister Louis Farrakahn; Jesse Friedman, whose story is featured in the acclaimed film Capturing the Friedmans; David Hampton, whose life story formed the inspiration for John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation; dozens of conscientious objectors; plaintiffs in two United States Supreme Court cases establishing First Amendment protection for flag-burning; several wrongfully convicted inmates.

“Ronald L. Kuby is one of the most well-known and well-regarded practitioners in the field of criminal defense,” the site adds. “Mr. Kuby has successfully defended hundreds of clients facing serious criminal charges, from murder, manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, felony assault and robbery charges; to white collar crimes such as money laundering and organized crime allegations; to criminal conspiracies; and international terrorism charges.”

On Saturday, Firedoglake’s Marcy Wheeler noted, “In all of this reporting, there has been no solid reporting as to the status or location of Shahzad’s wife, American citizen Huma Mian, or his kids, at least one of whom is also US-born (though some reports had her staying at Shahzad’s father’s house).”

I raise all this to point out that at a time when it still wasn’t clear whether or not Shahzad would “waive” his rights to appear in court and–apparently–have a lawyer, Pakistani authorities had already detained at least Shahzad’s friend and father-in-law, potentially his father, and might well have police guard on the house at which his wife remained (though, as I pointed out, we have no real clarity as to Huma Mian’s location). All of this presumably occurred in response to the US request for help on May 4, just hours after Shahzad was arrested. And, in that same period of time, Shahzad rather curiously waived not just his right to an arraignment, but possibly also his right to an attorney.

Now consider what happened in two other big counterterrorism cases this year. To get Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to cooperate, the FBI flew to Nigeria and persuaded his family to get him to cooperate (note, given Abdulmutallab’s father’s role in banking, the US would have a way of pressuring the father). And once the government indicted Najibullah Zazi’s father (followed by a few of his friends) it took just weeks to get him to plead guilty and start cooperating with investigators.

And all that, of course, happens against the background of incidences where the families of other detainees, notably Pakistanis Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Aafia Siddiqui, were taken into custody and (at least in the case of KSM) used as threats against the parent.

Our government has been very successful at coercing terrorist suspects by using the suspects’ family.

Did the government use the detention of Shahzad’s and Mian’s fathers as a way to convince Shahzad to “waive” his rights to an arraignment and–more importantly–potentially a lawyer?

(with AFP report)

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