Was David Williams IV a terrorist? Or was he just out to make an easy score by scamming the government’s informant?
On March 24, David Williams IV and three other Newburgh, New York, men face possible life prison sentences for plotting to blow up two synagogues in the Riverdale section of the Bronx and to shoot down military airplanes at Stewart Airport.
The Newburgh 4—ringleader James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams, and Laguerre Payen—were found guilty in a six-week trial based largely on the work of an FBI informant, Shahed Hussain, who posed as a wealthy Pakistani businessman with ties to an overseas terror group as part of an elaborate government sting operation.
The trial showed that Cromitie had made anti-Semitic and anti-American statements, that he concocted attack plans with Hussain, that the four defendants met to view an anti-aircraft missile, and that they planted what they had been told were bombs at two Riverdale synagogues on May 20, 2009.
The evidence, which included secretly taped conversations, painted a picture of four men who wanted to strike a blow for radical Islam. After the verdict, one juror told reporters, “We considered what they did a serious crime.”
Defense lawyers tried unsuccessfully to convince the jury that the government had actually entrapped the four, but none of the defendants testified on their own or gave interviews.
Until now. David Williams tells the Voice what he hasn’t said publicly before: that he went along with the bomb plot because he was trying to cheat Hussain, the government’s informant, out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Even as they were being secretly recorded and trailed by the government, Williams says he and Cromitie were working on their own plot to take Hussain’s cash.
In other words, they wanted to scam a guy who, it turned out, was scamming them.
“We all said lots of things only to either impress [Hussain] or make him think he found a band of real killers. We never meant one word of what we said,” Williams wrote in a recent letter to a friend.
“That’s what the whole thing was about,” Williams tells the Voice from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn where he is being held pending sentencing. He and Cromitie were plotting their own swindle, and both were clear nothing violent would happen. “Cromitie promised me nothing was going to happen.”
But plenty has happened to Williams and his fellow defendants. After turning down plea deals for significantly shorter sentences, they rolled the dice by going to trial and keeping their own mouths shut, hoping their defense attorneys could convince a jury that Hussain was an unreliable informant who had manufactured and relentlessly pushed a terror plot by plying them with cash and gifts—the FBI had even pulled strings to keep Williams out of a larceny case that would have had him behind bars when the plot was scheduled to go down. (Both federal prosecutors and defense lawyers declined to comment for this story.)
Would the jury have been more sympathetic if the defendants had instead portrayed themselves as greedy criminals looking for an easy score? It’s too late now to find out: Williams and the others are appealing their convictions, but for the moment they remain officially labeled home-grown terrorists who wanted to blow up Jewish people in the Bronx. And next month they could very well be sentenced to prison for the rest of their lives. … Full article
Plainclothes forces have attacked hundreds of Egyptian demonstrators with knives and rocks outside the State Security Agency headquarters in Cairo.
Around 500 protesters, demanding the closure of the secret police headquarters, were met with violence by security forces wearing civilian clothing on Sunday, AFP reported.
To stop protesters from storming the building — where documents were reportedly being destroyed that proved human rights violations — the army fired warning shots and used batons to disperse the crowd, witnesses said.
Earlier, in a similar incident, hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the headquarters of the State Security Agency in Alexandria to protest human rights abuses, which stemmed from ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s nearly three decades of state of emergency rule.
The gathering also turned violent when security forces opened fire on protesters, injuring at least three.
State security agents have been blamed for the violence during massive protests in Liberation Square to overthrow Mubarak.
On Saturday, former interior minister in charge of the secret services under Mubarak — General Habib al-Adly — was summoned to court and charged with money-laundering and corruption. He has denied all the charges.
Egypt’s former Petroleum Minister Sameh Fahmy has also been summoned to court over accusations of selling gas to Israel and six European states for prices lower than international ones.
Fahmy claims he only carried out the orders made by Mubarak.
This article is about Omar Maruf. What makes this one so important when every day dozens of innocent people die all over the world? Why an article about this one?
Omar Maruf was killed by a soldier who was heavily armed, and well equipped with everything the latest Western military industry has to offer. Omar was wearing old, dirty clothes, and collecting stones with his donkey. Omar was not even a so-called “collateral damage” who was unfortunately hit by a misguided bullet or bomb during a military attack. In our modern wars, where everything is precisely calculated, sometimes someone is just at the wrong time at the wrong place. But it wasn’t like that. No, a young soldier, heavily armed and well equipped, targeted Omar, who was standing there, with shabby clothes and stones in his hands, and decided to shoot him. A young soldier on a sunny winter morning felt the need to kill a man his same age who he probably considered as not so important. He knew that this act would never have any consequences, that he wouldn’t have to justify that deed to anyone. Because it was a Palestinian who has no rights, whose life doesn’t count.
This article is about Omar Maruf, because his life does count. Because his death deserves outrage and a demand for justice. Because I’ve looked into the silent faces of Omar’s grieving brothers, because I have listened to his cousins, who spoke all the more, out of anger and helplessness. How can you just murder a young man, they asked me. How is it possible that the Israeli soldier will not be sued, that there is no justice, that no one cares? Why can you just kill people like us, why can you just shoot Palestinians? Why does no one do anything? Why is no government in the world helping us, when the Israeli government believes that international law does not apply for them?
So here it is, the story of the death of Omar Maruf. He was twenty years old, and the father of a two years old son. “Don’t go too close to the border, it’s too dangerous,” his cousin Talal has previously warned him. He had no choice, Omar had responded. He had a son who needs food. So he went to the border to collect stones. It was 9:30 in the morning of the 28th February 2011, Talal was about 700 meters away from the border, on his own land. Omar was at 400 meters, when the Israeli soldiers opened fire. He was outside the so-called buffer zone, the 300-meter-wide strip of land along the border with Israel, which the Israeli military has banned from entering under threat of death. It is debatable whether it is lawful to declare publicly to shoot any civilian of the neighbour state who is on his own farmland close to the border. But that is not important, Omar was over a hundred yards away from this area.
Talal couldn’t see Omar from where he was standing. He didn’t know what had happened to him, whether the shots had hit him. The soldiers fired several volleys, and with the last volley, they shot the donkey, Talal could see how he died. Why the donkey, one wonders, such a pointless additional cruelty. But Talal didn’t know yet what had happened to Omar. Shortly after, two bulldozers and a tank broke into the land. It was impossible for Talal to come closer. Even the ambulance from the Red Cross which he had called received no permission to approach the donkey cart, even after several attempts to coordinate with the Israeli side.
The bulldozers began to dig a ditch around the cart with the dead donkey, almost half a kilometer away from the territory of their own state. Why, one wonders. Why did they dig a ditch around the donkey cart? Shortly after, Talal watched from a safe distance how Omar’s lifeless body was brought into the tank. Why, one wonders. Why did they take Omar with them? Maybe they wanted to treat him, said his cousin. Treat? For two hours, the paramedics of the Red Cross were trying to find out what happened to Omar, where he was, whether he was still alive. In vain. Finally, the paramedics received a call from the hospital of Gaza City: A body had been brought in from the Israeli Erez crossing, Omar was dead
“What on earth was this soldier thinking when he shot him?” his cousin asks me. “Did he think he would pose any danger? He doesn’t even have money to buy milk for his child. Did he think he had money for a weapon? Did he think he would have a tank?” As if I would have the answer. So I follow the question of why the soldiers have taken Omar with them. They wanted to help him, the family is convinced.
I ask one of his brothers whether traces of medical treatment were visible on his body. He shakes his head. “No,” he says, “I have seen his body. There were no puncture marks of an infusion, no bandages. The bullet had entered at the left side of his body, and had come out again on the other side.” A dumdum bullet, which causes maximum damage. Bullets which explode on impact inside the body are prohibited according to Geneva Convention 1889, Declaration 3. I don’t mention that that hardly matches the version that soldiers wanted to help. Perhaps the idea is just too reassuring that one of them has actually seen Omar as a human being who needs help.
But something had changed on him. As Omar’s dead body reached the hospital, a notice was fixed to his chest. “Terrorist” it said.
Omar Maruf is the eighth civilian being shot dead in the buffer zone in the last two months. Since the beginning of last year, far more than a hundred workers and farmers have been shot by Israeli snipers in the buffer zone, 18 of them died.
Vera Macht lives and works in Gaza since April 2010. She is a peace activist and reports about people’s daily struggle in Gaza. She can be reached at Vera.Macht@uni-jena.de
Hundreds of Egyptians are marching to the country’s border with the Gaza Strip to demand that it be opened. They are currently in Al Arish, about 50 kilometers from Rafah.
Press TV correspondent Roshan Muhammed Salih is also in Al Arish, where he spoke to several of the Egyptian activists, who told him they plan to hold a demonstration on the border on Sunday, with the aim of entering the besieged territory.
Egypt has imposed a blockade on Gaza since the democratically elected Hamas government took control of the territory in 2007. Gaza is also blockaded by Israel — a situation that international agencies and non-governmental groups say has led to a humanitarian crisis.
The initiative to open the Gaza border is the brainchild of the Tahrir4Gaza campaign, whose organizers say they want to test the extent to which Egypt has really changed since its revolution.
Ahmed El-Assy, the main campaign organizer, told Press TV, “The Mubarak regime collaborated with Israel to keep the Palestinians weak, but now he’s been overthrown, so there’s no need to maintain the status quo.”
El-Assy added that several days ago he was detained by the Egyptian authorities for launching the campaign. He said they tried to dissuade him from marching on the border, arguing that the timing was wrong.
“There’s a lot of fear and intimidation, but we know that the Palestinian issue is an important one for Egyptians, and we need to keep the momentum up following the successful revolution,” he stated.
A group of Egyptians and foreigners set out from Cairo on Saturday morning heading toward the Rafah border. They had to pass through at least twelve military checkpoints and were detained at one of them for two hours. Eventually they were allowed to proceed to Al Arish, 50 kilometers from Rafah. Upon arriving in Al Arish, the locals welcomed them with open arms and promised to accompany them to Rafah on Sunday.
Another member of the Tahrir4Gaza campaign told Press TV, “If we are refused entry to Gaza, we are thinking about setting up a permanent camp at the border. This is a test of whether this really is the new Egypt, or whether the old Egypt remains.”
The Communications Unit of the Israeli Air Force (IAF) is launching a new media program targeting the English-speaking world in order to promote their military activities and gain international approval.
Israeli air force attacking the Gaza Strip in January 2009
International New Media program will include a constantly updated website, Facebook page and Twitter feed, according to the news site Arutz 7, and will be under the auspices of IAF Spokesperson Lt. Col. Assaf Librati.
The program will include staff 20 writers, photographers, videographers and editors who support the entire IAF Communications Unit.
Explaining the reasoning behind the new campaign, Lt. Col. Librati said, “The Israeli Air Force is a center of profound research, international cooperation, immense diversity, and advanced technology within the Israel Defense Forces. We believe that we have much to share with the world about who we are, what we do, our capabilities, and our ongoing participation in humanitarian operations around the world.”
It is unclear at this time as to whether the IAF will also be including Twitter updates on its regular attacks on the Gaza Strip and it’s training in the occupied West Bank.
“We see this as a force multiplier and an important step forward in communicating about Israel, the IDF, and the IAF directly with stakeholders around the world,” Librati stated.
The Israel Defense Forces already has a very active spokesperson unit, operating daily with 500 media outlets and 2500 journalists and civilian agents working to promote their activities worldwide.
The country actively uses social media like Facebook for public relations particularly during its controversial attacks, such as the attacks on Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, the fatal naval assault on the Freedom Flotilla aid convoy.
In 2009 the Israeli Foreign Ministry announced that NIS 600,000 of the year’s budget would be devoted to the establishment of a professional team of talkback writers who will flood websites throughout the world with pro-Israeli messages.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry has since established team of students and discharged soldiers who work around the clock writing pro-Israeli talkbacks on internet sites throughout the world, and participate in discussions concerning Israel in international blogs and in sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
“The internet is an arena in every way in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we must act here or otherwise we lose,” said Ilan Shturman, Deputy Director of the Department of Public Relations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the time the project was established.
“During ‘Operation Cast Lead’ we turned to Jewish communities abroad and with their assistance enlisted several thousand volunteers, to whom Israeli volunteers joined. We sent them background and public relations material and sent them to represent the Israeli perspective in the news websites on the internet,” said Shturman. “Our target audience then was the European Left, which was not friendly towards the government policy. We therefore began to get involved in discussions on blogs in England, Spain and Germany, very hostile environments.”
As Ilan Shurtman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “Our goal is to penetrate into the world in which these discussions are being held, and in which news and video-clips are sent onwards to blogs, social networks and news sites of all sites. We are going to bring to these places a pro-Israeli voice.”
Stun grenade fired at woman’s face
RAMALLAH — Israeli forces violently shut down a demonstration led by women north of Jerusalem on Saturday, organizers said.
Border police fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets at the protesters marking International Women’s Day at the Qalandiya checkpoint.
The event was organized by minister of social affairs Majeda Al-Masri, a leader in the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and union officials from Hebron and Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
It was not clear how many people were hurt, but union official Nehad Al-Akhras said a Swedish activist was seriously injured by a stun grenade which struck her in the face. She was hospitalized in Ramallah.
Join us in calling for the immediate release of all Palestinian women political prisoners.
Petition: We, the undersigned members of worldwide civil society, are marking International Women’s Day on 8 March 2011 by calling on the Israeli authorities to immediately release all Palestinian women political prisoners and detainees from Israeli jails, including women in administrative detention. We condemn the cruel and discriminatory treatment that Palestinian women prisoners and detainees are subjected to during their arrest and interrogation and in prison, including sexual harassment, psychological and physical punishment and humiliation, and deprivation of gender-sensitive healthcare. This is in contravention of international law and must stop immediately.
To sign the petition, please go here.