In a partial victory, three members of the “Newburgh 4,” Black Muslims from Newburgh, New York, who were wrongfully framed by the FBI in a 2009 “bombing plot,” were finally released from prison. This came after a recent ruling by a federal judge. Three of the Newburgh 4 are African American, and one is a Haitian immigrant.
Onta Williams, David Williams and Laguerre Payen were happy to be released after being unjustly incarcerated for 12 years, based on an obvious FBI frame-up and entrapment scheme.
The situation stems from a 2009 arrest and a 2011 conviction that claimed four individuals—all of whom are of the Islamic faith—were plotting to use stinger missiles to shoot down military airplanes flying out of an Air National Guard base in Newburgh, New York, and blow up two synagogues in Riverdale. (New York Times, July 27)
Evidence now suggests that the FBI, along with an informant named Shahed Hussain, was responsible for the whole fiasco. Hussain is a Pakistani businessperson who had been working with the FBI prior to the sting operation. Records show that he was paid a generous salary of $100,000 by the FBI to “seek out Muslim radicals” at local mosques. (The Guardian, Dec. 12, 2011)
Hussain’s provocative rhetoric and flashy appearance raised suspicion among the Islamic clergy at Masjid al-Ikhlas, the Islamic Learning Center in Newburgh infiltrated by Hussain, where he met the four individuals who became FBI scapegoats.
Masjid Imam Salahuddin Muhammad was leery of Hussain’s reactionary and forceful demeanor from the time he first stepped foot into the Newburgh community mosque. “This guy said ‘women should not be heard, not be seen.’ I thought that was strange,” Muhammad told The Guardian. Hussain presented himself in a cartoonish manner, reinforcing negative stereotypes, and that raised suspicion among several members of the Mosque.
Findings of facts
U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon’s 28-page decision concludes that “all four men were caught up in a scheme in 2009 to attack the synagogues, community center and launch stinger missiles at military aircraft, driven by overzealous FBI agents and an ‘unsavory’ confidential informant.” (Reuters, July 28)
Judge McMahon is the same judge who originally ruled to place the Newburgh 4 behind bars in 2011. Allegedly, she did so reluctantly, and her arbitrary “catch and release” style rulings in the case are an example of why the working class and oppressed cannot rely on bourgeois courts to seek any type of sincere justice.
Despite evidence of his innocence, James Cromitie, the individual considered by FBI informant Hussain to be the “ringleader,” remains unfairly incarcerated. Testimony and court exhibits visibly demonstrate that none of the Newburgh 4 would have been associated with the situation had it not been for the FBI’s instigation and provocation.
Conclusion of the case, from a Marxist view
The FBI has a history of infiltrating and attempting to disrupt political and religious organizations, notably those led by oppressed peoples. In this situation, the FBI took advantage of four working, poor and nationally oppressed individuals who were falsely promised an escape from poverty. None of the Newburgh 4 had any interest in carrying out violent actions, but the idea of breaking free of constant hardship sounded appealing, understandably so.
The FBI plot was also an effort on their part to divide the Muslim and Jewish communities. The arrest came at a time when U.S. politicians, military leaders and the corporate media were constantly pushing Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry. The release of Onta Williams, David Williams and Laguerre Payen is only a partial victory, however, because James Cromitie remains behind bars and his future is uncertain. Communists and anti-racist activists need to demand freedom for all the Newburgh 4 and for a complete abolition of the FBI! ☐