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ARC of Delaware County: Delayed 2 HrsAcademy at Rensselaer Education Ctr: Delayed 2 HrsAcademy of the Holy Names: ClosedAchievements & Kids Express Mplwood: Delayed 2 Hrs, no before careAchievements St Kateri Tekakwitha: Delayed 2 HrsAchievements and Kids Express TBGC: Delayed 2 HrsAdams-Cheshire Regional SD: ClosedAesthetic Science Institute: Delayed 2 Hrs, Classes will begin at 11 amAlbany Law School: Delayed 2 Hrs, All classes starting before 11 am are cancelled Staff report at 10:30 amAlbany Leadership Charter High: Delayed 2 HrsAlbany Pine Bush Discovery Center: Delayed 1 Hr, No AM Pre-K, Classes will still run, The Discovery Center will open at 10 am to the public. Morning classes scheduled to start at 10 will still start at 10.Albany Public Library: Delayed, No Morning Classes, All locations open at noonAmbleside School: Delayed 2 Hrs, All School Luncheon remains on scheduleAmsterdam City SD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM BOCES, No BreakfastAmsterdam Head Start: Delayed 2 Hrs, Staff ReportAn Nur Islamic School: Delayed 2 Hrs, Building opens at 8:30.Andes CSD: Delayed 3 HrsArkville Head Start: ClosedArlington SD: Delayed 2 Hrs, Delay 2 Hours ALL JISP CANCELLEDAugustine Classical Academy: ClosedAverill Park CSD: ClosedAverill Park Pre School: Closed, No AM Program, No Morning ClassesBArT Charter Public School: Closed, Full-year staff reportBallston Spa CSD: Delayed 2 HrsBattenkill Community Services: ClosedBennington College: Delayed Until 10a, Essential staff report as normalBennington County Head Start: ClosedBennington Early Childhood Ctr: ClosedBerkshire Christian School (Lenox): ClosedBerkshire Community College: ClosedBerkshire Country Day School: ClosedBerkshire County Head Start@Conte: Closed, No AM Head StartBerkshire Hills Regional SD: Delayed 2 HrsBerlin CSD: ClosedBerne-Knox-Westerlo CSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM Pre-K, No AM BOCES, No BreakfastBethlehem CSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM BOCESBishop Maginn HS: ClosedBlessed Sacrament School: Delayed 2 Hrs, No After-School Programs, No After School Events, Regular DismissalBoght Montessori: Delayed 2 HrsBrighter Choice Charter Schools: ClosedBrite Beginnings Day Care & Dev Ctr: Delayed 2 HrsBrown School: Delayed 2 Hrs, No Morning PLUS ProgramBrunswick (Brittonkill) CSD: Closed, Updated statusBrunswick Center Services: Open, Buses on Snow RoutesBrunswick Children's Academy: ClosedBrunswick Community Library: ClosedBurnt Hills-Ballston Lake CSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM BOCES, 2-hr delay (Final) HS students check email for exam scheduleBurr & Burton Academy: Delayed 2 HrsButterfly Dreams Daycare: Delayed 2 Hrs, Daycare will open at 9;30amCEO Head Start (Rensselaer County): Delayed, All CEO programs and sites delayed until 10:00amCOARC Adult Transportation: Open, Staff Rpt, No TransCairo-Durham CSD: Closed, Offices ClosedCambridge CSD: Delayed 2 HrsCap Dist Ctr for Indp (Albany): ClosedCap Dist Ctr for Indp (Schenectady): ClosedCapital Milestones Child Care: Delayed 2 HrsCapital Reg Career & Tech (Albany): Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM BOCES, No AM BOCES, No AM classesCatholic Central HS: ClosedCatholic Schools Office: Delayed 2 Hrs, Principals Meeting at 10:30Catskill CSD: ClosedCentral Berkshire Regional SD: ClosedChatham CSD: Closed, Pops Concert Pstpnd to 1-18Chatham Kids Club: ClosedChildhood Friends Inc.: Delayed 2 Hrs, We will open at 9amChrist the King Church: Closed, No morning Daily Mass. Parish Office opens at 11 a.m.Christ the King Early Childhood Ctr: Delayed 2 HrsChristian Brothers Academy: ClosedCircle Of Friends (Delmar): Delayed 2 Hrs, Wrap around two hour delayCircle of Friends (Ravena): ClosedClifton Park Nursery School: Delayed 1 HrCobleskill-Richmondville CSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM Pre-K, No AM BOCESCohoes City SD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM K, No AM BOCES, No Breakfast, CDTA buses running on Delay schedule - 9:30 amCohoes Community Center, Inc.: Delayed Until 9a, /Day Care delayed until 9am /No AM care at elem schoolsColonie Youth Centers: Open, No AM ProgramColumbia Christian Academy: ClosedColumbia Co Nutrition Pg (Philmont): Closed, Staff ReportColumbia-Greene Comm College: Delayed, No Day Classes, The College will open at 4:00 pm.Columbia-Greene FCU: ClosedCommunity Access to the Arts: ClosedCongregation Gates of Heaven: Open, Senior Moments Cancelled Rescheduled for Jan. 24Corinth CSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM BOCESCoxsackie-Athens CSD: ClosedCrossFit Schenectady: Delayed, No morning classesCrossroads Center for Children: Delayed 2 HrsDiscovery Place Learning Center: ClosedDoane Stuart School: Closed, NO Snow CampDoors of Hope: ClosedDuanesburg CSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM BOCESDutchess Community College: Delayed Until 5p, No Day Classes, Opening at 5 pm for evening classes. Student Services offices open 5 - 7 pm.EOC (Capital District): Delayed 2 Hrs, School closed until 10 a.m. staff/sudents report at 10Early Childhood Learning Ctr: ClosedEarly Childhood Education Center: Delayed 2 HrsEarly Childhood Education Ctr-Troy: ClosedEast Greenbush CSD: ClosedEast Greenbush Community Library: Delayed Until 11a, Storytimes cancelledEco Baby Daycare & Preschool: Delayed Until 9aEddy Senior Care: Open, Schenectady Center is open Buses may be lateEmma L. Miller Memorial School: ClosedEmma Willard School: Delayed 2 HrsExcelsior College: Delayed 1 HrFarmington River Regional SD: ClosedFirst Friends Nursery School: Delayed, No AM Program, Enrichment program begins at 11:30amGabriel Abbott Memorial School: ClosedGalway CSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No BreakfastGateway Community Industries: Open, No Transportation, GCI open,trans cancelled SNP meals/cong.sites cancel PROS cancelled,Staff report, GCI is open but transportation is cancelled. Staff report., The Ulster County Office of the aging home delivered meals service and congregated sites are cancelled for today. , PROS is cancelled. Staff report. , George Washington School: ClosedGermantown CSD: Closed, Office staff report at noonGood Ground Christian School: Delayed 2 Hrs, Opening at 9:30Grace Chapel of Clifton Park: Open, All groups cancelled.Grace Christian School: ClosedGrand Gorge Head Start: ClosedGrapeville Christian School: ClosedGreen Island UFSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No Breakfast, School opens at 9:40Green Tech High Charter School: Delayed 2 HrsGreenbush Child Caring: ClosedGreene County Nutrition Program: Closed, No TransportationGreene County Transit: Closed, No Transportation, all buses cancelledGreenville CSD: ClosedGreenwich CSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM BOCESGrowing Up Right at the C.D.C.: ClosedGuilderland CSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM BOCESHVCC: Delayed 2 Hrs, School closed until 10 am. staff and students report at 10 amHancock Regional SD: ClosedHappy Kids Day Care Center: ClosedHawthorne Valley School: ClosedHead Start - Adams: Closed, No AM Head StartHead Start - Lee: Delayed 2 Hrs, No TransHead Start @ Becket/Washington: Closed, No AM Head StartHead Start @ Johnson - North Adams: Open, No AM Head Start, No Transportation, Childcare OpenHead Start @ Meadow Lane Pittsfield: Open, No AM Head Start, No Transportation, Childcare OpenHead Start @ Muddy Brook - GB: Open, No AM Head Start, No Transportation, Childcare OpenHebrew Academy - Capital District: Delayed 2 HrsHelderberg Christian School: ClosedHelping Hands Pre-School: Delayed, No AM Pre-SchoolHenry Johnson Charter School: Open, No Aft-Sch PgmHoly Spirit School (East G'Bush): ClosedHoosic Valley CSD: Delayed 2 HrsHoosick Falls CSD: ClosedHope 7 Community Center: Open, for after school, Food Pantry Open 9:30-11:45aHopeClub: Delayed 3 Hrs, No Morning Classes, Opening at noon, Opens at noon. Housatonic Academy: ClosedHudson City SD: Closed, Offices now cosed Board Meeting as scheduledHudson Day Care Center: ClosedHunter-Tannersville CSD: Closed, No AM BOCESIchabod Crane (Kinderhook) CSD: ClosedJefferson CSD: Delayed 2 HrsJohn Paolo's-Ballston Spa: ClosedJubilee Child Day Care Center: ClosedKIPP: Tech Valley Charter School: Closed, Both the primary and middleKid Kampus: Delayed 2 Hrs, Opening at 8:30AMKiddie Academy II: Delayed 2 HrsKiddie Academy of Albany: Delayed 2 HrsKidsFirst Childcare Center: Delayed 2 HrsKinderhof Waldorf School: ClosedKinderhook Memorial Library: Delayed 2 Hrs, Library will open at noon.Kingston City SD: ClosedLa Salle Institute (Troy): ClosedLanesborough Regional SD: ClosedLansingburgh CSD: ClosedLatham Christian Academy: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM KLee Public Schools: Delayed 2 HrsLenox Public Schools: Delayed 2 HrsLife Kids Before/ After School: Open, No AM ProgramLifeSong Inc (Saratoga): Delayed 2 Hrs, Staff ReportLifeSong Inc (Schenectady): Delayed 2 Hrs, Staff ReportLifeSong Inc. (Albany): Delayed 2 Hrs, Staff ReportLifeSong Inc. (Rensselaer): Delayed 2 Hrs, Staff ReportLil Peeps Preschool: Open, 10am-2pm No TransportationLil' Lambs Christian Daycare Inc.: Delayed 2 HrsLittle Feet Daycare Center: ClosedLittle Tot Nursery School: ClosedLiving Res DCOP (Albany): Delayed 1 HrLiving Res DCOP (Rensselaer): Delayed 1 HrLiving Res DCOP (Saratoga): Delayed 1 HrLiving Res DCOP (Schenectady): Delayed 1 HrLiving Resources DCOP (Columbia): Delayed 1 HrLong Trail School: Delayed 2 HrsLoudonville Christian School: Delayed 2 HrsMacedonia Baptist Church (Albany): Closed, No Adult Education, Bible Study is CanceledMalta Montessori School: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM Pre-K, No toddler programMargaretville CSD: Delayed 3 HrsMass. College of Liberal Arts: Delayed Until 10aMechanicville City SD: Delayed 2 HrsMekeel Christian Academy: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM Pre-SchoolMenands UFSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No BreakfastMetropolitan NTM Baptist Church: Closed, All activities cancelled.Mid-America Baptist Seminary: Delayed 2 HrsMiddleburgh CSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM Pre-K, No AM BOCES, No Breakfast, One Hour Early DismissalMilford CSD: Delayed 2 HrsMillbrook CSD: ClosedMohawk Trail Regional SD: ClosedMohonasen CSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM BOCESMontessori School (Schenectady): Delayed, No AM Program, Early care open at 11.Morning Star Baptist Church: Closed, 6pm Bible Study is cancelledMother Teresa Academy: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM Pgm, No morning care Doors open at 9:45Mount Greylock Regional SD: ClosedMountain Road School: ClosedMrs. Puddle Duck's Childcare: Delayed 2 Hrs, Opening at 9:00 amMt Moriah Academy: ClosedMyers Education Center: Delayed 2 HrsN. Greenbush Little Red School: ClosedNassau Free Library: Delayed Until 2p, No AM Pgm, No Morning Classes, No Story TimeNew Lebanon CSD: ClosedNew Paltz CSD: ClosedNewmeadow at Clifton Park: Delayed 2 HrsNewmeadow at Fort Edward: Open, Upstate Trans delayed 2 hrsNiskayuna CSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM BOCESNorth Adams Public Schools: ClosedNorth Colonie CSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, Check website/email for SHS exam scheduleNortheast Parent & Child Society: Open, Staff Rpt, No TransNortheastern Baptist College: ClosedNorthern Berkshire Voc SD: Closed, No After Sch EventsNotre Dame-Bishop Gibbons: Delayed 2 HrsOak Hill School: Delayed 2 HrsOakwood Christian School: Delayed 2 HrsOhav Shalom Nursery School: Delayed, No AM Pre-School, No AM Program, opening at 9:30 all staff report at 9:00One Love Preschool: Delayed 2 HrsOnteora CSD: ClosedOrlo School of Hair Design: ClosedOtego-Unadilla CSD: Delayed 2 HrsOur Lady of Victory Early Childhood: ClosedOur Savior's Lutheran School: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM K, No AM Pre-School, No LaunchpadOur World Montessori: Delayed 2 Hrs, Open at 10:45 a.m.Parsons Early Head Start Day Care: Delayed 2 Hrs, Staff report by 9Parsons Early Learning Center: Delayed 2 Hrs, Staff in by 9Pine Cobble School: Delayed 2 HrsPine Plains CSD: ClosedPineview Comm Church Pre-School: Delayed 2 Hrs, No Breakfast, opening at 9:30Pittsfield Public Schools: ClosedPoughkeepsie City School District: ClosedPumpkin Patch (Albany): Delayed 2 HrsQuestar III BOCES - Sarah's Sisters: Delayed 2 HrsQuestar III Catskill Academy: ClosedQuestar III Columbia-Green Ed Ctr: Closed, New Visions open house will be rescheduled to tomorrow night, Thursday, 1/18.Questar III Rensselaer Academy: Delayed 2 HrsQuestar III Rensselaer Edu Ctr: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM BOCES, Q3 New Vision is closedQuestar III Sackett Educational Ctr: ClosedRavena-Coeymans-Selkirk CSD: ClosedReadsboro Central School: Delayed 2 HrsRed Hook CSD: ClosedRedemption Christian Academy: Delayed 2 HrsRensselaer City SD: Delayed 2 HrsRensselaer Public Library: Delayed 1 HrRhinebeck CSD: ClosedRichmond Consolidated: Delayed 2 HrsRiverRun Community Montessori: ClosedRiverside Enterprises: Open, Buses on Snow RoutesRobert C. Parker School: ClosedRoeliff Jansen Community Library: ClosedRoots and Wings Montessori: Delayed 1-1/2 Hrs, Open at 9am no before careRosa Venerini Early Childhood Cente: Delayed 2 Hrs, Before Care Cancelled Doors Open at 9Roxbury CSD: Delayed 2 HrsSUNY New Paltz: Delayed 3 Hrs, Offices will open at 10:45, Offices will open at 10:45 a.m.SW Vermont Career Dev Ctr: ClosedSacred Heart School (Bennington): ClosedSacred Heart School (Troy): Closed, TSL is opens at 2pmSage Colleges (Troy & Albany): Delayed 2 Hrs, Classes begin at 11 amSaratoga Central Catholic HS: Delayed 2 HrsSaratoga County Senior Meals: ClosedSaratoga Independent School: Delayed 2 Hrs, No Before Care or AM Pre-KSaratoga Springs City SD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM BOCESSaugerties CSD: ClosedSchalmont CSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM BOCES, No BreakfastSchenectady City SD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM Pre-K, No AM BOCESSchenectady County ARC: Open, Buses on Snow RoutesSchenectady InnerCtyMin Food Pantry: Closed, Staff Report, Food Pantry is closed. Will reopen Thurs, Jan 18.Schenectady Jewish CC: Delayed, Early Childhood Education will open at 8:30 amSchenevus CSD: ClosedSchodack CSD: ClosedSchoharie CSD: Delayed 2 HrsSchoharie Career and Technical Scho: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM BOCESSchoharie County Com. Action Prg.: Delayed 2 Hrs, Opening at 10:00 AM.Schoharie Cty Child Dvp Cobleskill: Delayed 2 HrsSchoharie Cty HeadStart (Schoharie): Delayed 2 HrsSchool's Out, Inc.: Closed, No AM ProgramSchools Out Childrens Center LLC: Open, 6am - 2pm no transportationSchuylerville CSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM BOCES, No BreakfastScotia-Glenville CSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM BOCES, No BreakfastShaftsbury Early Childhood Center: Open, 10am-2pm No TransportationSharon Springs CSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM BOCES, No BreakfastShenendehowa CSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM K, No AM BOCESShooting Stars Nursery & After Sch.: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM Pre-SchoolSkidmore Early Childhood Center: Delayed, No AM Pre-SchoolSmall World Nursery School: ClosedSouth Colonie CSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM Pre-K, No AM BOCESSouthern Berkshire Regional SD: Closed, No Aft-Sch Pgm, No PM Activities, No After School EventsSouthern Vermont College: ClosedSouthwest Vermont SU: ClosedSpa Christian School: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM K, No AM Pre-SchoolSpotted Zebra Learning Center: Delayed 2 HrsSt Ambrose School: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM PgmSt Catherine's May School: Delayed 2 Hrs, No BreakfastSt Clement's Regional Catholic Sch: Delayed 2 HrsSt Edward's Church: Closed, No 9am Mass No daytime eventsSt George's School: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM Pre-School, AEP begins at 11:30 amSt Gregory School: Closed, Classes CancelledSt Jude the Apostle School: ClosedSt Kateri Tekakwitha School: Delayed 2 Hrs, No Breakfast, No Before Care. School doors open at 10:00 am.St Madeleine Sophie Pre-School: Delayed 2 HrsSt Madeleine Sophie School: Delayed 2 HrsSt Mary's Academy (Hoosick Falls): ClosedSt Mary's Institute ES (Amsterdam): Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM Pre-K, No BreakfastSt Mary's School (Ballston Spa): Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM Pre-School, Before Care Opens at 8:00amSt Mary's School (Waterford): Closed, No AM Pre-KSt Pius X School: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM Pre-KSt Stephen's Pre-K Acad (Delmar): Closed, No AM Pre-K, No AM Pre-K; Enrichments still on in the afternoonSt Thomas the Apostle School: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM Pre-KStepping Stone Pre & DCC (Albany): Delayed 2 Hrs, Open at 9:00Stillwater CSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, FinalStory Place Preschool: ClosedStorybook Academy: ClosedSullivan BOCES: Closed, All facilities are closedSunnyside Center Day Care: Delayed 2 Hrs, Day Care open at 9am. All staff report at 9am.Sunshine Kids Corner: Delayed 2 Hrs, Opening at 9 amSusan Odell Taylor School: Delayed 2 HrsTLC Christian Day Care: ClosedTaconic Hills CSD: ClosedTech Valley High School: Delayed 2 HrsThe Albany Academies (AA & AAG): Closed, Check web later for athleticsThe Beagle School: Delayed, No AM Program, PM Class OpenThe Children's Museum at Saratoga: Delayed 2 HrsThe Kid's Place Preschool: ClosedThe King's School: ClosedTiny Tots Early Learning Center: ClosedTown of Ballston Community Library: Delayed 2 Hrs, Library will open at 12pm; Morning programs canceledTri-Village Nursery School: ClosedTroy City SD: Delayed 2 HrsTroy Prep: Delayed 2 HrsTroy Public Library: Delayed 3 Hrs, The library will open at 12:00 pm today. Twin County Recovery Services, Inc.: Closed, No groups or appointmentsTwin Valley Elementary School: Delayed 2 HrsTwin Valley Middle High School: Delayed 2 HrsUlster County Community College: Delayed 2 Hrs, Employee code orangeUlster-Greene ARC (Catskill): Open, No Transportation, transportation cancelledUlster-Greene ARC (Kingston): Open, No Transportation, All Classes Cancelled, Kingston Transportation Cancelled Training Center Cancelled, Kingston Transportation Canceled., Rosendale Training Center classes Cancelled. , , Unity Sunshine Program: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM Pgm, Day Care Open, Special Ed delayed 2 hours. UPK delayed 2 hours. at A Child's PlaceUpstate Transit: Delayed 2 Hrs, School DivisionVillage Of Colonie Senior Center: ClosedVillage School of North Bennington: ClosedVoorheesville CSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM BOCES No BreakfastWWAARC—Albany & Queensbury: Open, Albany Location on Snow Routes; Queensbury Location normal routineWaldorf School (Saratoga Springs): Delayed 2 Hrs, 2 Day PreK begins at 10:30Warren Street Academy - The Bridge: ClosedWarrensburg CSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM Pre-K, No AM BOCES, No AM Head Start, No BrkfstWashington County EOC: Open, Cambridge HeadStart delayed 2 hours, No AM transportWaterford-Halfmoon UFSD: Delayed 2 Hrs, No BreakfastWatervliet City SD: Delayed 2 HrsWhispering Pines (Cobleskill): Delayed 2 HrsWhispering Pines - Schoharie UPK: Delayed 2 HrsWhispering Pines Pre Sc (Amsterdam): Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM Pre-School, No morning Toddler Program No morning wrap aroundWhispering Pines Pre-sch (Delanson): Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM Pre-School, No Toddler ProgramWildwood Adult Day Services: ClosedWilliamstown Public Schools: ClosedWilton Baptist Academy: Delayed 2 Hrs, No AM KWindham-Ashland-Jewett CSD: ClosedWonderland Nursery School: ClosedWoodland Hill Montessori School: ClosedWorcester CSD: ClosedWynantskill UFSD: ClosedYMCA (Bethlehem): Open, No Morning ClassesYMCA (East Greenbush): Open, No Morning Classes, Or programs, Child watch Opens at 9am, Snow Day Program opens at 8amYMCA (Greater Glenville): Open, No programs until noon. No AM Childwatch.YMCA (Guilderland): Open, No AM Pre-School, No Morning Classes, No AM branch childwatchYMCA (Schenectady): Open, No Morning Classes, Child Watch Closed for AM Classes Cancelled til NoonYMCA (Troy): Open, No Morning Classes, Or programs, No Child WatchYMCA Duanesburg: Open, No Morning Classes, No morning child watchYMCA Greene County Branch: Open, No Morning ClassesYMCA Southern Saratoga: Open, No Morning Classes

Imprisoned Aref says his heart is ‘full of peace’

Imprisoned Aref says his heart is ‘full of peace’

Yassin Aref, a Kurdish refugee who came to Albany in 1999, and Mohammed Hossain, a local pizza shop

Yassin Aref remembers the first time he was allowed to have physical contact with his family as a federal prisoner.

His youngest daughter Dilnia, born while he was in jail awaiting trial, “was a little shy at first, then started to push her brothers away so she can hug me and sit on my lap.”

His children began competing with each other, seeing who could “put an arm around my neck for a longer time,” Aref wrote in a lengthy email that reflected his improving but still-far-from perfect English. “Then I felt sorry for them and started thinking how those years of my isolation were difficult for them.”

Since his conviction in 2006 on terrorism-related charges, Aref has lived in a succession of prisons and jails.

Though he was transferred to a low security federal prison in Allenwood, Pa., last year, Aref spent about four years in a highly restrictive, isolated prison unit known as a communication management unit. He is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the legality of the CMUs and maintains that he did nothing wrong and should never have been arrested, tried or sent to prison.

Aref, a Kurdish refugee who came to Albany in 1999, and Mohammed Hossain, a local pizza shop owner, were arrested in a dramatic FBI sting in 2004, convicted two years later and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Prior to his arrest, Aref served as the imam at Masjid As-Salam, a storefront mosque on Albany’s Central Avenue.

The case remains controversial today for many reasons, including the FBI’s use of an undercover informant with a criminal background, the decision to focus so much energy on two men with clean records and the terrorist plot itself, which was a fictional scenario created by the agency. In the FBI’s sting, the informant offered Hossain the opportunity to make some money by laundering the proceeds from the sale of a missile to a terrorist group; Aref entered the picture months later, when he agreed to witness the transaction.

“They targeted [Aref] for some reason, and we’ve never known exactly why,” said Kathy Manley, Aref’s longtime attorney, who currently assists him pro bono.

The families of both men remain in Albany, and a grass roots network of local supporters helps them make ends meet. These supporters have also continued to be outspoken critics of the government’s decision to target and prosecute the men, saying neither Hossain nor Aref would have gotten into trouble if the informant hadn’t entered their lives.

They have formed a group, called Project SALAM, that aims to bring wider attention to the government’s prosecution of Muslims since 9/11. The Aref/Hossain case, they say, opened their eyes to the mistreatment of Muslims all over the country.

The government has a much different perspective.

Deputy Criminal Chief William Pericak, who prosecuted Aref and Hossain on behalf of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York, has defended the government’s actions for years and continued to do so last week. He said Aref’s name and phone number were found at three different Iraqi locations associated with the terrorist group Ansar al-Islam and that, based on this connection, “it would have been criminal” not to investigate him.

Aref has always said he is not a terrorist and was never a member of a terrorist group.

Coping

According to friends, Aref and Hossain have reacted very differently to their imprisonment.

Aref has written about his experiences, even publishing a memoir, “Son of Mountains,” that he wrote while awaiting trial in the Rensselaer County jail. He is willing to share his story with just about anyone. Hossain, on the other hand, has withdrawn, and his contact with supporters in the Capital Region is minimal.

“The two men are very different,” said Jeanne Finley, one of Project SALAM’s coordinators. “Yassin has always been out there. He will talk to anyone. ... Mohammed doesn’t want communication. Yassin welcomes it.”

Aref has four children, who are now 16, 15, 12 and 6; Hossain, who is currently housed in a medium security federal prison in Minersville, Pa., has six children. His wife continued to run his pizza shop until recently; today the site is home to a liquor store.

“It has not been easy for these families,” Finley said. “They are not harassed, but to live in the community that prosecuted their husbands is a challenge. They try to keep as low a profile as possible.”

Aref was acquitted of 20 of the 30 counts against him, but found guilty of the indictment’s more serious charges, including money laundering, material support for terrorists and making false statements. Hossain was convicted of all 27 charges brought against him.

Going gray

Now 41, Aref looks noticeably older than he did at the time of his arrest, and in an email he observed that “I look like 52 now!” In photographs taken with his family in 2011, after he was transferred to the low security prison, his hair and beard are flecked with gray, and he is wearing a plain brown prison suit.

Shortly after his conviction, Aref was sent to the communication management unit at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., and was transferred to the CMU at the federal prison in Marion, Ill., in 2009. He remained in Marion until his transfer last year to Allenwood, where he is part of the general prison population.

The CMUs are nicknamed Little Gitmos, after the federal government’s controversial facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for detainees from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. CMU prisoners are separated from the general prison population, and their communication is heavily monitored and restricted.

In the past, prison officials have said the CMUs are designed for people convicted of terrorism, prisoners who have dealt drugs or tried to recruit or radicalize others behind bars and prisoners who have abused their communications privileges by harassing victims, judges and prosecutors. But the lawsuit alleges that many of the CMU inmates are low-security inmates.

Asked how the low security prison compares to the CMU, Aref wrote, “This is another prison. Still, I am not home and I am not free. But I do see my transfer to this place as one step forward toward both of them. Here, I feel I am a little closer to home and to freedom!” He added, “For me, this is not life! Because there is not life without freedom. It is true that I am not dead, but I am not really alive, either!”

Legal fight

Aref’s lawsuit challenging the CMUs was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City, against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Harley Lappin, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and D. Scott Dodrill, assistant director of the Correctional Programs Division.

A spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons said the agency does not comment on pending litigation and did not respond to a list of emailed questions.

The Center for Constitutional Rights lawsuit alleges that the creation of the CMUs marked a dramatic change in prison policy, as the units were created without the opportunity for public notice and comment, in violation of the federal Administrative Procedures Act, which provides guidelines for how the federal government can propose and implement regulations.

The suit also claims that the plaintiffs, including Aref, were sent to the CMUs despite having relatively clean disciplinary histories, that the CMUs are discriminatory because the majority of prisoners are Muslim, and that CMU inmates were not allowed to examine or refute the allegations that led to their transfer.

According to the lawsuit, CMU prisoners are separated from the general prison population and are forbidden to have physical contact with friends and family. This is much different from how federal prisoners are typically treated, the lawsuit says, noting that “the [Bureau of Prisons] encourages contact visitation by family, friends and community groups to maintain the morale of the inmate and to aid rehabilitation. ... BOP prisoners are rarely denied contact visits even after being found guilty of serious disciplinary offenses.”

The lawsuit describes the impact of the physical contact ban on Aref and his family.

“When his children did visit him at the CMU, Mr. Aref found the pain of being divided by a barrier and speaking to them on a telephone to be unbearable,” the lawsuit says. “Mr. Aref’s wife is no longer willing to bring his children to the CMU for a non-contact visit because she fears it is too traumatizing to their children, and Mr. Aref agrees that the non-contact visits are very upsetting. Rather than subject himself and his young children to such restrictive and taxing visiting conditions, Mr. Aref has foregone receiving visits from his family. For that reason, Mr. Aref has not received a visit from his family for almost two years.”

Reflective

In an email, Aref wrote that “four years of isolation in the CMU with no contact visits was more than enough to ruin the family and destroy relations. I am from the east where family relations means living under the same roof, sharing joy and pains on a daily basis. ... As for how my children are doing, I really don’t know. I am unaware of what they are experiencing every day, but they always tell me they are fine. I have no way to explain how much I miss them.”

Aref said that he is reading Albert Camus’ existentialist novel “The Stranger,” and “after reading about the empty life of Camus’ protagonist before and after his incarceration, not to mention his sentence, I find it even more difficult for myself to become angry or depressed. Indeed, it’s not easy to serve 15 years in prison for a crime I never did, and it’s not fun for me to see my family suffering, but what can I do? ... I am sure that depressing myself and becoming angry will not solve my problem. It will not ease my family’s situation. Therefore, I do not need anger and depression, I need the solution.”

Aref is scheduled to be released from prison in 2018 and will be deported upon his release, Manley, his attorney, said. His youngest child was born in the U.S. and is a citizen, but his older three are not, although they all have green cards. Their mother, Zuhur, applied for citizenship, but her application was denied.

Aref’s wife is not interested in speaking to reporters, according to family friends. She has never worked, but the family’s three-bedroom apartment is paid for through a fund maintained by local supporters, while the mosque provides the family with food. Some aid has also been provided by the Rosenberg Fund for Children, a nonprofit organization that assists children “whose parents are targeted, progressive activists,” according to the organization’s website.

Aref fled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime after his village was destroyed and arrived in Albany in 1999 with his family after living in Syria. The grandson of a well-known imam, he began preaching at the age of 13, and his oldest son, 15-year-old Raiber, seems poised to follow in his footsteps. He has started preaching at Masjid As-Salam and is interested in pursuing an education in religious studies after he graduates from Albany High School.

Shamshad Ahmad, a lecturer in physics at the University of Albany, founded Masjid As-Salam and hired Aref to serve as the mosque’s imam. He has also written a book about the case, “Rounded Up: Artificial Terrorists and Muslim Entrapment After 9/11.”

Ahmad said Aref was popular with members of the mosque. “He was very sincere, very helpful and very generous,” he said. “He was also very stubborn and very rigid.”

Prior to his arrival in the U.S., Aref had very little contact with non-Muslim people, Ahmad said. But since his arrest and conviction, he’s been “writing and exchanging emails with all sorts of people. It looks like he’s more liberal now.”

Muslims fearful

The Aref/Hossain case frightened many of the mosque’s members, Ahmad said. “Some people do not want to support [Aref] openly,” he said. “They think the smart thing is to stay away and keep a low profile. In the beginning, they were so scared and terrified that it’s difficult for me to describe.”

Formed in 2008, Project SALAM is creating a database of cases they believe have unfairly targeted Muslims. Members say the government has engaged in “preemptive prosecution” — officials deciding to pursue criminal cases based on what they fear people might do in the future, rather than anything they’ve actually done.

After Aref and Hossain were convicted, “We began to see how big the problem was,” Finley said. “The pre-emptive prosecution of Muslims on terrorism charges is going on throughout the country.”

The details of these cases are often different, but the intent is always the same, said Stephen Downs, a local attorney and member of Aref’s legal team. “The government decides they want to take someone down, and they figure out how to do it.”

Counterterrorism has been the FBI’s primary focus since 9/11, and the government’s philosophy has been described as the “1 percent doctrine,” after former vice president Dick Cheney’s remark that, “If there’s a 1 percent chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Queda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response.”

Stings standard

Pericak dismisses the notion that the Aref/Hossain case represents a new direction for the agency. He said that the government has long used undercover informants to get close to suspected terrorists and other criminals, and that sting operations are a standard tactic used in fighting crime.

“This is as old as the hills,” Pericak said. “We’ve been doing stings since forever.” He said the FBI targets a variety of criminals using stings, including drug dealers, Mafia members and people looking for child pornography.

Albany resident Lynn Jackson, a longtime activist known for her work with the environmental group Save the Pine Bush, became interested in Aref’s case after learning about it through Downs, who serves as attorney for Save the Pine Bush. When she heard that Aref enjoyed listening to the liberal radio show Democracy Now!, she sent him CD recordings of the show, unaware that he was unable to listen to CDs in the CMU.

“He wrote me a letter that broke my heart,” Jackson said. “I began to write to him, and he would write back — these amazing, sad letters.”

Jackson believed that the government would ultimately realize that it had erred in imprisoning Aref and Hossain — “I just thought it was so obvious” — and that eventually the two men would be freed. When he lost his appeal in 2008, “I was in a state of shock,” she said. The loss motivated her to found Project Salam.

Views of reality

From Project SALAM emerged the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, which is headed by Downs and comprised of Project SALAM and about 18 like-minded groups. The idea is to raise awareness of the pre-emptive prosecution and profiling of Muslims and challenge such cases throughout the country, according to Downs.

Pericak said Aref’s supporters refuse to acknowledge the facts. “The accusation is that I did something for a bad reason, and I know that’s not true,” he said. “[Aref’s supporters] don’t want their minds changed. They’re happy being ignorant of the facts. If you try to have a discussion of the facts, they turn away.”

The FBI used an informant, a convicted felon named Shahed Hussain, to get close to Aref and Hossain. Pericak said the FBI provided Hussain with a list of names of people who attended the Albany mosque and asked whether he knew any of them. Though he did not know Aref, he was acquainted with Hossain, and offered to loan him $50,000, which he later claimed came from the proceeds of the sale of surface-to-air missile to the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed. None of this was true, but Aref was eventually brought in to witness the loan transaction.

“It’s not like there was a great long-range plan with 52 steps,” Pericak said. He said that Aref was aware that the informant claimed to have done business with Jaish-e-Mohammed and that the organization was a terrorist group. “He knew the guy was involved in a terrorist group, and he continued to work with him,” he said.

Aref’s supporters say that his ability to understand what was going on was limited by his poor English, that he never saw the missile that the informant showed to Hossain and that he was unaware he had done anything that could be considered wrong. They also point to Hussain’s criminal background and a terrorism case in Newburgh, where Hussain served as an informant and was found to have perjured himself, as a reason to reexamine Aref’s conviction.

In the Newburgh case, which members of Project SALAM cite as an example of the government’s misguided targeting of Muslims, Hussain recruited four men to join him in a fictitious plot to blow up synagogues in the Bronx. All four men were poor, and one was described as being almost mentally retarded.

Aref said he remains thankful for his supporters in the community. “[H]ow could I ever thank them adequately?” he wrote. “Not only the victory be theirs if I ever find justice, but we will never know how many similar tragedies they have prevented by drawing attention to preemptive prosecution on a national level.”

He said his heart is “full of peace.”

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