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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 8/2/19

California judge vacates conviction in 13-year-old Lodi terror case of Hamid Hayat

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American Muslim community has welcomed a landmark ruling overturning the conviction and 24-year sentence of Hamid Hayat, a Lodi resident convicted in 2006 on terrorism-related charges.

In a stunning decision on Tuesday (July 30), the Senior United States District Judge Garland Burrell Jr., who oversaw the trial and conviction of accused Lodi terror suspect Hamid Hayat 13 years ago has ordered the conviction and sentence vacated.

Burrell's decision comes seven months after U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Barnes issued a 116-page recommendation to Burrell that the conviction be vacated because of ineffective representation by his original defense attorney, a woman who at the time had never tried a criminal case in federal court.

Barnes' recommendation followed weeks of testimony in a 2018 hearing in which his attorney hammered home his contention that the FBI had coerced Hayat into false confessions, that the training camp he supposedly visited was not even open at the time he was in Pakistan and that alibi witnesses who could prove his innocence were not produced at the original trial.

Hamid Hayat's family begs for his freedom

The family of Hamid Hayat made a tearful plea Wednesday for the federal government to show mercy and release him from prison in the wake of a federal judge's order vacating his 14-year-old conviction.

"I want to tell the government, 'Please, end this now and release my brother from federal prison in Phoenix, Arizona, today," Raheela Hayat, his 24-year-old sister, said as she wept on the steps of the federal courthouse in downtown Sacramento. "Everything else has ended, please give us our brother back. We don't need anything else, just our brother back home."

Hayat's family and friends gathered with supporters and one of their lawyers at the building one day after U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. ordered Hayat's 2006 conviction and 24-year sentence vacated.

Hayat attorney Layli Shirani said the team would file a motion in federal court seeking an order for his release and that they were not concerned that prosecutors have not yet signaled whether they will oppose that and seek a new trial.

Controversial case

The Hayat case has been controversial from the start, when federal prosecutors announced they had broken up a terror cell in Lodi and arrested Hayat on terror charges and his father, Umer, an ice cream truck driver, on charges of lying to the FBI.

In the post-9/11 atmosphere, the announcement sent shock waves through the Muslim community in Lodi and elsewhere, especially with allegations that Hamid Hayat, then 22, had allegedly taken part in explosives and weapons training that included using photos of President George W. Bush as targets.

Umer Hayat's jury could not reach a verdict in his case and he later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was sentenced to 24-year jail.

Hayat had been accused

Hayat had been accused of attending a terrorist training camp in Pakistan and planning to wage jihad on the United States.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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