Dix 5 - Five Innocent Men May be
Sentenced to Life+ in Prison for the "Crime" of Being Muslim Men
Click here to see YouTube movies made by ConflictOrientedDave about the Fort Dix 5.
Lynne Jackson, volunteer for Project SALAM, wrote of her experience visiting the families of the five men on April 23 and 24 in Philadelphia:
I do not know where to start about my trip to Philadelphia for Project SALAM. It has been an unbelievable, incredibly sad, experience. But, I met some wonderful people. I will simpy start at the beginning.
Why was Project SALAM - Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslims invited to Philadelphia?
Anne Sombor and I went to a protest in Washington on March 21. We brought the second Project SALAM letter to have people sign. There, we met Betsy Piette, who was thrilled to meet us - - she was just beginning to work on the Fort Dix 5. I gave her my email.
Her husband, Joe Piette, emailed Project SALAM a week or two later, asking for a representative to come to Philadelphia for a program about the Fort Dix 5.
I volunteered to go. For a while, I was not sure if the event was to happen at all, because Joe and his group were having a hard time finding a venue for the program. No one seemed to want to host a program about five convicted immigrent terrorists.
Last week, it was confirmed, that the program would be held on Thursday, April 23, 2009 at the Calvary Church, 48th and Broadway in Philadelphia. Steve Downs wrote an excellent speech for me, click here to download the speech.
My husband, Dan, put me on the train at 7:50 AM on Thursday, April 23. I had a very pleasant train ride, sitting in the sun, reviewing my speech and preparing for the meeting.
Arrival in Philadelphia - Meeting some family members
The train arrived on time at 1:01 PM in Philadelphia. Joe greeted me and we immediately went to our first stop - WHYY radio. Originally, I was supposed to be interviewed on the radio, but, for some reason that changed, and only the family members, Inas Shnewer, Burim Duka and Zurata Duka were interviewed. Perhaps 45 seconds of these interviews will make it onto NPR on Monday, August 27.
Joe and I met Ibraheim Shnewer, Zurata Duka, Burin Duka and Inas Shnewer. OK, I will admit, I have a very hard time with new names and faces. I wrote down everyone's names, emails, addresses. And how people were related. It was very difficult for me to keep everyone's name straight at first. But, by the time I left, I pretty much had it down.
Who are the Fort Dix 5?
So, who are the Fort Dix 5? Evil terrorists intent on blowing up Fort Dix with a couple of guns? Or, a bunch of working class guys, framed and entrapped by the FBI? I was not 100% sure when I agreed to come to Philadelphia to speak. But, after being here for two days, I know, they are five innocent men, with wives and children and families who need and love them.
My husband Dan gave me very good advice when I left on my trip. He said, just talk about what you know, and listen, listen. I feel that I do not know a lot about the legal issues, the entrapment issues, all of the things I should know. But, I can listen.
And what I heard schocked me. I thought I was hearing the Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain's case again, except instead of two men, leaders of the Muslim community as the victims, I was hearing about five, young, religious working-class family men as victims.
Same story - different people - even down to the FBI's "expert" witness - Evan Kohlman.
The Fort Dix 5 are:
Serdar Tater, age 27, married with one child
Mohammed Shnewer, age 23
Dritan (Tony) Duka, age 30, married to Jennifer, five children, 11, 10, 6, 5, and 4
Eljivir (Elvis) Duka, age 26, married to Mohammed Shenewer's sister, Hanan, 1 daughter, 18 months
Shain Duka, age 28
I met the Duka and Shnewer families. I did not meet anyone from Serdar Tarter's family.
Ferke and Zurata Duka are the father and mother of the Duka brothers. They are from Albania, and have been in this country for 26 years. They spent a year in a refugee camp in Italy before coming to this country. Ferke Duka can speak seven languages. He and his sons have a very good roofing business and work very hard. Ferke insisted to me that he had always wanted to come to this country. He did not want to stay in Western Europe, he only wanted to come to America. He spoke of how when he was a child, boxes of food were given to him, and they said "USA" on the outside. That the US defended Albania against the genocide of Serbia. He loves America. The three older sons were born in Albania, the other children were born here.
The Dukas have four sons and one daughter. The forth son, Burim, age 19, was too young to be charged by the FBI. Both Ferke and his son, Burim, are still followed by the FBI.
Ibrahim and Fatem Shnewer are the father and mother of Mohammed Shnewer. They have one son and five daughters. I met two of their daughters, Inas and Hanan (Hanan is married to Eljivir Duka). They are Palestinian and their two daughters were born here. Ibrahim drives a taxi, and so did his son, Mohammed.
Serdar Tater is Turkish and worked in a 7-11.
The five men went to Cherry Hill High School together and became good friends. With about ten other friends, they would go for one week vacation in the Poconos, to ski, ride horse, watch movies, have pillow fights, play paintball, and shoot at a licensed shooting range. All young men, all having fun. Ferke Duka told me his son Tony asked permission if they could go (the roofing business in the winter being slow). Ferke bought them 200 pounds of T-bone steaks, 80 pounds of chicken wings, and other food for their trip. The men made a video-tape of their vacation. When they returned, they brought the video to a Circuit City to have the video transfered to DVD.
The Circuit City employee, Brian Morgenstern, saw the tape, saw young men on a shooting range speaking in Arabic, and after thinking it over for one night, called the police.
According to Time Magazine, 12-6-07: "[the police] arrived within an hour. Two officers watched the video with Morgenstern, and when they heard the word 'jihad' (which can refer to a holy war or a personal struggle of any kind), they said 'Stop it. That's enough.' With that, the Fort Dix case file was opened. The officers made a copy of the video and left."
The FBI sent in not one, but two informants. After 18 months, the one informant persuaded Tony Duka to agree to buy a couple of guns, which Tony wished to purchase for vacation in the Poconos so the group of men would not have to wait at the shooting range to shoot. It was at this point, the FBI rushed in, and arrested all of the men.
See a more detailed explanation of the story here:
The Tactics used by the FBI
Crow to the Public
Just like the Aref/Hossain case, the Fort Dix 5 covered the front pages of the paper and the news media.
From Fox News:
Friend: Fort Dix Terror Suspect Had Bomb Recipes, Called bin Laden 'Uncle Benny'
From the NY Times:
6 Men Arrested in a Terror Plot Against Fort Dix
Six Muslim men from New Jersey and Philadelphia were charged Tuesday with plotting to attack Fort Dix with automatic weapons and possibly even rocket-propelled grenades, vowing in taped conversations “to kill as many soldiers as possible,” federal authorities said.
Use criminals as informants/agents provocateur
Two informants were used in the case - Mahmoud Omar, who entered the country illegally, and, when hired by the FBI, was on probation. He had been found guilty of bank fraud and had served time for his crime.
The other informant, Besnik Bakalli “was wanted for a shooting in Albania and awaiting deportation when agents plucked him from a Pennsylvania jail.” (Star-Ledger, Dec. 22)
The informant in the Aref/Hossain case was a con-man, found guilty of many felonies and facing deportation, until he agreed to work with the FBI.
Have the informants spend as long as it takes to entrap the victims
In the Albany case, it took the informant 5 months to talk Mr. Hossain into accepting a loan, in the Fort Dix 5 case, it took the informants eighteen months to get the victims to do something that would allow the FBI to arrest them.
The tactics used on the defendants by the informants in this case were interesting. Mostly Omar worked on Mohammed. Omar was about 15 years older than Mohammed. Mohammed was about 20 years old, self-conscious and over weight. Omar would call him a woman, and tell him to be a man. Omar called Mohammed hundreds of times, wanting to get together, calling calling. Mohammed often would not answer the phone.
The informants would ask the defendants to download jihadist movies to their computers. These videos were not of interest to the defendants, they simply downloaded them to please the informants.
Serdar Tater worked in a 7/11 and his family owned a pizza shop near Fort Dix. Omar constantly asked Serdar to give him a googlemap of the pizza shop with Fort Dix. Serdar kept asking why. Omar said he would tell him after he gave him the map. Serdar became suspicious, and told a policeman who was a customer of the 7/11 about Omar wanting a map. The policeman called the FBI, and left a message on a voice mail at the FBI, but no one ever got back to him. Eventually, because he was tired of being pestered so much, Serdar did give Omar the map.
The informants went to the Poconos with the defendants on one of their vacations. The informant would say "This is training". The defendants would say, what are you talking about, this is vacation!
The informants wormed their way into the defendants' lives, spending time with them, calling them. Omar told Mohammend that he (Omar) was a bad person and wanted to learn about Islam, would Mohammed teach him? This is the same tactic used in the Aref/Hossain case, where the informant constantly told Hossain that he (the informant) wanted Hossain to teach him about Islam.
Just like in the Aref/Hossain case, hundreds, maybe thousands of hours of tapes were made by the FBI, recording the Fort Dix 5. But, the jury only heard tiny snippets. The jury did not hear about the defendants explaining that violence was "haram" or forbidden by Islam. The jury did not see the entire Poconos video showing the men skiing, horseback riding and just having fun on vacation.
At one point in the trial, a prosecution witness was asked by the defense attorney what kind of military training that would be useful to assault Fort Dix would skiing or horseback riding or pillow fighting be.
New tactic - pay the informants
I do not know if the informant was paid in the Aref/Hossain case, but, according to news reports, Omar was paid $240,000 and Bakalli was paid $150,000. Good work, if you can get it! At at the trial, the judge kept saying this case cost a lot of money,
Case based on Air
Sometimes, people ask me how do I know that Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain are innocent? I say, because there is no evidence!
This is the same in this case - there is no evidence. The FBI took hundreds and hundreds of hours of taped interviews, and took small snippets out of context to make a case. If the jury had listened to all of the hours of taped evidence, they would have clearly seen there was no plot.
All the incriminating conversation comes from the informants
As with the Aref/Hossain case, it was the informants always encouraging the defendants to engage in illegal behavior. And the defendants telling the informants about the right and just way to live. The informants tell the defendants over and over how they want to learn about Islam, yet keep talking about attacking or getting back at America. It is only the informants who bring of the topic of revenge against America, not the defendants.
Shock and awe the jury
In the Aref/Hossain case, the FBI brought in a rocket launcher to show to the jury to shock them. In the Fort Dix 5 case, the FBI showed violent videos downloaded onto one of the defendants' computers at the urging of an informant. The FBI brought in guns they said the defendant was going to purchase.
Silly fabricated plots
In the Albany case, the plot made up by the FBI was Yassin Aref (a Kurd) and Mohammed Hossain (from Bangladesh) were helping to launder money for the informant to bring a rocket launcher to NYC to blow up the Pakistani Ambassador.
The plot concocted by the FBI in the Fort Dix case, was these men were going to attach a FORT - Fort Dix - with guns. Oh, please! A few men with some small arms are going to attack a fort? For what? Does this make any sense?
And, the Same Expert Witness
Yes, the same government expert witness, Evan Kohlman, appeared at both trials. In the Aref/Hossain case, Kholman was supposed to testify about the political situation in Bangladesh. But, during the deposition, he could not name the president or political parties in that country. He does not speak Arabic and has never been to the middle east.
In the Fort Dix 5 trial, Kohlman testified on how the video at taken at the Poconos compared to tactics used by terrorists.
Special Housing Unit
The Fort Dix 5 are kept in a special housing unit (SHU). They have been in this unit for two years. They are allowed one, ten-minute phone call per month. On the few occasions they have been allowed to see their families in the past two years, they can only see them through glass. Last month, the Dukas were informed that they cannot visit their sons for three years due to some supposed infraction made by one of them.
The conditions of the SHU almost make the "Little Guantanamos" - The Communication Management Units (CMUs) where Yassin Aref is being held - look like a ritzy hotel!
The men are only allowed one 10-minute phone call a month! Eljvir Duka's wife is not quite 18 yet, so she is not allowed to visit because "children" (his 17 year old wife) are not allowed.
During my visit, whenever we drove past the prison, the family members pointed out the building to me. The Fort Dix 5 are imprisoned so close to their families, yet the cannot be visited by their families very often.
The Families Need More Support from the Community
The biggest difference between the Aref/Hossain case and the Fort Dix 5 is the reaction of the community. Jennifer, wife of Dritan (Tony) Duka says that when she visits the small shopping center nearby, people say "terrorist" under their breath. Jennifer and her five children were forced to leave their apartment after the arrest. They now live with Ferke and Zurata Duka. Zurata told me that 20-30 people would be at her house every day, now, few people come to visit.
There is no Muslim Solidarity Committee or anything like it in Philadelphia. Only about 20 people came to the presentation I was invited to speak at on Thursday, April 23. The presentation was organized by the Philadelphia International Action Center. It appears to me that people in the community just do not know about this case. The only publicity in the corporate media is not favorable towards these men. And, there is no Carl Strock, relentlessly writing about the innocence of the men.
Sentencing for the Fort Dix 5 will be Tuesday and Wednesday, April 27 and April 28
Tuesday, April 27 at 9:30 AM at the US District Court, 5th and Cooper Street, Forth Floor, Philadelphia, the Duka brothers will be sentenced. Serdar Tatar and Mohammed Shnewer's sentencing will be the next day.
Everyone who can attend, should attend the sentencing.
The Ultimate Tragedy
The men will probably be sentenced to life in prison plus 30 or 40 years.
Life in prison. Life in prison is a long time for people who are innocent.
As Ferke Duka was driving me to the train station, he said to me - "If they did something wrong, take them away! Put them in prison! I don't care! But, they did nothing wrong!!!!"