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Albany Marks 12th Anniversary Of Aref / Hossain Arrests

Events are planned in Albany this evening to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the arrests of Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain, who were convicted of terrorism following an FBI sting. 

Activists have long insisted that the terrorism case against Albany residents Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain, dating back to 2004, was more of a frame-up than a sting.  The two are serving 15-year federal prison sentences for their involvement in an alleged money-laundering incident tied to the sale of a fake shoulder-fired missile. Along with cases like the Fort Dix 5 and the Newburgh Four, Albany made global headlines.

Aref, who had been imam at the Masjid As-Salam, and Hossain, a Central Avenue businessman, were convicted in 2006 after a trial that included testimony from an FBI informant, Shahed Hussein, a Capital Region resident who constructed the plot, according to FBI instructions.

For years, supporters of the imam and the pizza-maker have tried to get the two released, without success. In 2014, Masjid As-Salam mosque president Dr. Shamshad Ahmad told WAMC that despite trying all legal means,  "From day one, we knew that the hope of bringing them back her is almost nil."

Aref and Hossain have been away for a long time, but haven’t been forgotten by Albany advocates and activists like Lynn Jackson, who volunteers with the Muslim Solidarity Committee and Project SALAM.   "We in Albany do not want to forget these two men, who we believe were targeted by the FBI because of their religion. So every year since their arrests, we have had some kind of activation of this event which we think is a terrible injustice in Albany.  Today, we're going to have a rally and speakers, starting at 5:30 as the Masjid-As-Salam, 280 Central Avenue, and then we're going to have a march to the Unitarian Universal Society of Albany, we're gonna have dinner, and then we're gonna have a screening of a movie called (T)error.”  The public is invited to participate.

The Sundance award-winning film follows undercover FBI informant Saeed "Shariff" Torres, a 62-year-old former Black Panther as he engages in a sting operation targeting a Muslim man. Torres is the so-called "other informant" who oversaw Albany informant Shahed Hussein in the Aref/Hossain case — and another case with local ties.   According to Jackson,  "The FBI used Shahed Hussein again, when they did a sting or an entrapment operation in Newburgh against the Newburgh 4, and actually the aunt of one of the men in that case lives here in Albany.  When Hussein was on the stand in the case with the Newburgh 4, the judge actually told the prosecutors that they had a problem with perjury, that Shahed Hussein had perjured himself on the stand. So we thought the FBI would never use Shahed Hussein again, but they used him again in the case of Khalifah al-Akili."

A panel discussion will follow the showing of (T)error.  Aref and Hossain are expected to be released in October of 2018. 

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