Shah & Sabir: Entrapped?

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On May 27th, the FBI arrested Tariq Shah of New York and Dr. Rafiq Sabir of Florida, both native born U.S. citizens, following a two-year sting operation, charging both with pledging allegiance to Osama bin Laden and with conspiring to provide material support to al-Qaeda. In court, prosecutors claimed that Shah, 42, is a martial arts expert who told an undercover agent that he had entertained the idea of renting a warehouse where he could train terrorists in hand-to-hand combat. He supposedly even went so far as to demonstrate how Muslim prayer beads could be used to strangle someone to death. Sabir, 50, a medical doctor, stands accused of agreeing to fly to Saudi Arabia to attend to wounded radical jihadists. The pair, being held without bail in a federal facility, has already been all but convicted in the court of public opinion by lurid news reports which seemed to celebrate the authorities' cracking of the case. All this has transpired without anybody first pausing to question the plausibility of the government's allegations. It only would have taken some common sense and a little investigation to develop a suspicion that this scenario smacks of over-zealous police work bordering on entrapment. Truth be told, neither of these happily-married men has a previous criminal record, but rather are fathers and highly respected professionals with deep roots in their respective communities. Shah, the son of a close confidante of Malcolm X, is a world-renown jazz bassist who has played for Betty Carter and a host of other A-list musicians. Forget any presumption of innocence, the TV accounts failed to mention all the shocked associates who showed up at the bail hearing to vouch for his character.

Dr. Sabir is a Columbia University-trained physician who lives in a quiet, upscale, gated community in Boca Raton. Sadly, it seems that if you are dark-skinned with an Arabic name, all your Constitutional rights, are easily trumped by the Patriot Act. For you can find yourself stuck in jail without bail while your good name is being smeared all across the country. Although I have no intimate knowledge of what either of these defendants actually said to wired FBI agents, I have some serious doubts about the likelihood of their guilt when, after two years of surveillance, the best evidence the feds could come up of their intent to commit treason sounds so weak. A doctor talking about traveling overseas to heal the wounded? A professional musician musing about opening a karate school? Gimme a break! Granted, anybody actually collaborating with the enemy deserves to be imprisoned. But I suspect that, here, the FBI seized on a couple of suggestible Muslim malcontents, misguided individuals whose worst mistake was in honestly engaging federal agents in ongoing conversation. Why are we squandering tax dollars on entrapping the disgruntled blowhards instead of investing in tracking down truly dangerous terrorists?

Black Star columnist Kam Williams is a member of the NJ, NY, CT, PA, MA & US Supreme Court bars. For more reports and articles please call (212) 481-7745 to subscribe to the newsstand edition of The Black Star News.

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