Albany man in prison on terror charges seeks retrial

Imprisoned Albany imam Yassin Aref, convicted on terrorism-related charges in 2006, will make anothe

Imprisoned Albany imam Yassin Aref, convicted on terrorism-related charges in 2006, will make another attempt to get a new trial based on what a group supporting him says is new evidence, the group announced last week.

Yassin Aref has been imprisoned since his 2004 arrest in an FBI sting, accused of conspiracy connected to a scheme to launder money for a man they allegedly believed sold a missile to a terrorist group.

But there was no missile, or terrorist plot, only a sting by the FBI.

Aref and another man, Albany pizza shop owner Mohammed Hossain, were later convicted after trial in 2006 and sent to prison for 15 years each.

The two have since exhausted formal appeals.

The group, made up of friends and supporters of the men, say they will ask again for Aref’s conviction to be overturned and for a new trial. The new effort is to be done through a motion brought by Aref, the group said.

The new evidence they cite is related to information Aref uncovered in a Freedom of Information Act request that they say shows that the FBI mistakenly believed more than a year before the sting that Aref was an al-Qaida agent with a similar name.

That misidentification, Aref claims, led to the later sting becoming a priority and he was targeted on erroneous grounds.

Aref claims that an actual al-Qaida agent with that name was killed in Gaza in 2011, and that man was missing two fingers on one hand. Aref claims he was a victim of mistaken identity.

“I am completely innocent of the charges against me, and was simply tricked by the FBI into gratuitously witnessing a loan that I believe was entirely legal,” the group quotes Aref as writing.

The information was shown to the trial judge and appeals court, but not to the defense attorneys at trial or to the jury, the group claims.

Aref’s supporters say the government never should have targeted the two men, as neither had criminal backgrounds and never would have gotten into trouble had the informant not entered their lives.

The government has maintained Aref and Hossain are both dangerous men, and their willingness to go along with the plot demonstrates a willingness to work with terrorist groups.

Groups supporting the men, including the Muslim Solidarity Committee, Project SALAM and the Aref-Hossain/Albany chapter of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, will hold a rally July 12 at 6 p.m. at the Masjid As-Salam, 278 Central Ave., Albany.

The rally is also to mark the ninth anniversary of their arrests.

The group is also planning a “Journey for Justice,” a walk from Albany to Binghamton, to start immediately after the rally.

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