Fahad Hashmi was born in Karachi, Pakistan in 1980. His family immigrated to New York when he was three, and he grew up in Flushing, Queens and became a US citizen. While earning his B.A. at Brooklyn College, he established a reputation as a political activist and advocate. After graduating, he left New York in 2003 to pursue his Masters degree in International Relations at London Metropolitan University in England.
After completing his Masters and on his way to Pakistan, Fahad Hashmi was arrested at London’s Heathrow Airport on a US warrant on four charges of material support to terrorism which, if convicted, carried a potential 70-year sentence. After unsuccessfully challenging his extradition to the United States, he became the first US citizen extradited under new laws passed after 9/11.
The basis of the government’s case was the testimony of a cooperating witness, Junaid Babar, an acquaintance of Hashmi’s, who had stayed with him for two weeks in his student apartment in London. In his luggage, Babar had raincoats, ponchos, and waterproof socks that Babar then allegedly delivered to an Al Qaeda operative in Pakistan. Hashmi had also allowed Babar to use his cell phone. Babar had been arrested two years earlier on five counts of material support and had quickly agreed to cooperate with the government, in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Upon his return to the United States, Hashmi was held in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan for three years before his trial. Five months after he was brought to the US, the Attorney General placed him under what are known as Special Administrative Measures or SAMs which severely restrict communication between prisoner and the outside world. Fahad’s cell was electronically monitored inside and out so he was not allowed to talk through the walls; everything he did was in view of the camera including when he showered or used the toilet. He was allowed contact only with his lawyer and in very limited ways with his family. Much of the evidence in the case was classified and so he was not allowed to review it.
Alarmed by the public grassroots movement raising concerns about rights violations in Fahad Hashmi’s case, the government filed a motion asking for an anonymous jury with extra security. One day later, on the day before his trial was set to begin, having spent nearly three years in severe solitary confinement, Hashmi accepted a government plea bargain of one-count of conspiracy to provide material support. He was sentenced to 15 years. In August 2010, he was sent to the federal “supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado (ADX). While his SAMs were not renewed in October 2011, he remains in solitary confinement at ADX.