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Aref Supporters Update Media

Project SALAM

NSA surveillance evidence leaked by Edward Snowden could play a role in finding justice for two Albany Muslims nabbed in a FBI "terrorism" sting nine years ago.

You may recall Yassin Aref,  the Albany imam convicted of material support for terrorism along with pizzeria owner Mohammed Hossain following a massive FBI sting in 2004 that created international headlines. 

Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Outgoing Albany Common Council member Dom Calsolaro and Attorney Kathy Manley at Masjid As-Salam.

Outgoing Albany Common Council member Dom Calsolaro sponsored the “Albany Resolution” (passed by the  Common Council in 2010), which urged the U.S. Department of Justice to review the convictions of Muslims who were "pre-emptively prosecuted" to ensure their fair treatment under the Constitution.

Attorneys for Aref filed an appeal in July asking that his conviction be overturned or that he be granted a new trial.  That appeal was based on new evidence, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, that Aref had been misidentified by the FBI.

Aref’s defense has also filed a so-called "Reply Memo" to the prosecution, which proclaims that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced on November 15 that the Department Of Justice will notify defendants––including those in past cases––if evidence derived from NSA surveillance was used in their cases.

Despite "procedural obstacles," Aref's defense team will forge ahead with the new evidence, hoping their efforts will earn him and pizza-maker Hossain early release.

Aref, currently incarcerated in Pennsylvania, has served eight years of a 15-year prison sentence. His release date is October 2018. The Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment in time for broadcast.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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