An American citizen, brought up and college-educated here in Brooklyn, is being held against his will, alone in a windowless room. He has been there for the last two years. He has not been convicted of any crime.

Before that, he was held in another windowless room for a year. He is not allowed to watch the news or to speak to anyone, except one family member at a time every few weeks, and even then only through the medium of a translator who will edit out anything he “should not” hear or say. His every move is watched by his captors on CCTV. He is allowed out of his cell for one hour a day, but not into the sunlight or fresh air: instead his jailers allow him to exercise inside a cage.

His case has attracted the interest and criticism of many American lawyers and groups such as Theatre Against the War, including such celebrities as Wallace Shawn.

He is charged with nothing more than allowing a duffel bag of waterproof socks and raincoats to be stored at his apartment in London. The only witness to this “crime” was a houseguest, who it turns out was in fact a government informer, and has a vested interest in testifying against him.

This American citizen is not being held by the Taliban, or by Al Qaida. He’s not being detained in Guantanamo Bay. He’s imprisoned in his own home town, in the centre of New York, by his own government; the American government.

Syed Fahad Hashmi is a young Muslim man in his twenties; a star of his class at Brooklyn College where he studied political science, and a masters graduate of international relations at the London Metropolitan University in England.

His teachers recall an eloquent and sincere man who would often act as a bridge and sympathetic negotiator between people with differing political views; a peacemaker and a diplomat.

But rather than furthering his career as a political scientist, it was Fahad’s fate to gain the distinction of being the first person to ever be extradited from Britain to the US under novel anti-terrorist legislation: it was in London’s notorious Belmarsh prison where he was first held for a year. Now imprisoned in New York, he is the subject of a community campaign led, not least, by his old college teachers, his parents, and his childhood friends & neighbours, to have him tried promptly and fairly, and for the US government to account for the treatment he has received.

His trial, which has been repeatedly postponed and now scheduled for the end of April, centres around the government informer who was Fahad’s house guest. This informer however is on trial separately himself, and will receive a reduced sentence for testifying against Fahad – one of the many causes of concern about the fairness of the prosecution’s case

Last month I attended a vigil for Fahad outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Downtown Manhattan: about 150 people were in attendance, and the event, featuring an impromptu theatre performance about the history of sedition in America, was broadcast live on internet “Radio Free Fahad”.

Prof Jeanne Theoharis, Fahads old teacher, address the vigil

Prof Jeanne Theoharis, Fahads old teacher, address the vigil

I met his old school teacher, an impressive woman and knowledgeable powerful speaker. I watched his best friend from high school, a sensitive and tender young man, grieve over the torture his friend is going through. I can’t help feeling that if the most powerful nation on earth, and one that is ostensibly committed to the rule of law, freedom, justice, legal due process, democracy and human rights, can act like this towards its own citizens, then what hope does it have of setting an example of how a civilised nation should act?

www.freefahad.com

www.thawaction.org

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Please help spread the word about Fahad Hashmi, and the way America and Britain have treated him.