Nayyar was indicted by a federal grand jury on April 23, 2008, but his court-appointed lawyer has refused to show him the complaint, advising him instead to cooperate with the FBI or “you will die here”
Nayyar Zaidi, who has lived in the United States for the last thirty-five years and who is one of the most prolific of our journalists, vanished around spring this year. None of the small band of those who write for Pakistani newspapers noticed his disappearance for some time, but since I was the one most in contact with him, I began to ask others if they had run into Nayyar.
Nobody had. Phone calls to his family produced vague answers. The embassy did not know either, including its cloak-and-dagger men, who tend to keep an eye on us rather than on the heavy presence of their counterparts from our great neighbour to the east.
About two months ago, Irshad Salim, who runs Des Pardes, an online paper from New Jersey, reported that Nayyar was in a US federal prison in Ohio, which is hundreds of miles from here. The news was so startling that we simply could not believe it.
Why was he there, was the first question that came to our lips. He was there, so the arresting authorities claimed, because he had crossed state lines with the intention of committing a felony, the felony being an attempt to obtain sex from a minor. The minor did not exist as it was a sting, a police trap laid through the Internet. All this has been very hard on his family and his friends, especially because this is the last thing anybody would have expected or anybody is willing to believe.
I have filed a few reports for this newspaper, based on what I was able to learn. However, I did not have a direct communication from Nayyar till last week, which provides me with Nayyar’s side of the story.
Before I write it down, the present position is that he has been refused bail twice and his request to represent himself has been made subject by the judge to his psychological ability to stand trial, an order that Nayyar finds “alarming” because he fears that it may be used to declare him of unsound mind, resulting in his being thrown into some hell-hole meant for the mentally deranged, a place from where he may never emerge alive. Nayyar has said that he went to Ohio as part of his research for a story on parental predators of minors.
Nayyar ardently believes that he has been targeted by the FBI for entirely different reasons.
In a letter to the US Attorney General, Nayyar writes that he has been a long-time victim of the FBI’s broad powers. “My medical records were altered and originals destroyed in 1995,” he recalls. When he sought legal redress, his attorney was told that it had been decided not to investigate the matter because the scarce federal resources available were required by the FBI to investigate major cases.
“Is equal protection under the law now contingent upon resources?” Nayyar has asked. He sued the FBI in 1997 under the Federal Tort Act. The FBI filed a motion for dismissal of the suit, to counter which Nayyar filed a motion for criminal contempt of court. The motion was dismissed by a judge “without prejudice” and Nayyar was told that he could re-file the case after 180 days.
Nayyar’s legal battles, which are too complicated for me to understand, included suits he filed against the chief justice of the United States in his “administrative capacity” as well as the US president and the US attorney general. He got nowhere in the courts and in the bargain he claims to have earned the FBI’s hostility.
Nayyar writes in his letter to US Attorney General Michael Mukasey that he had ended up on the wrong side of a “mafia” that included powerful judicial and political figures. He writes that on February 20, 2003, an attempt was made to jail him when three FBI special agents came to his home while he was away and questioned his 15-year-old son who was all by himself. The three agents came in without permission and looked around the place for 15 minutes, interrogating the boy who was a minor.
When Nayyar learnt of the visit, he rushed to the FBI field office to answer a “few questions”. The three agents who had gone to his house wanted him to divulge personal information about all his children, their ages, the cars they drove and even their cell phone numbers.
One agent said to Nayyar, “Mr Zaidi, I want you to answer ‘yes or no’”. The question he asked was, “Do you know anyone who is even this much of an extremist or fundamentalist Muslim?” (Here the agent indicated a space between his thumb and index finger).
Nayyar shot back, “What is ‘this much’?” adding, “If I say yes, then I would have admitted knowing extremists and fundamentalists. If I say no, you would produce evidence that I had known many Muslims who were regular practising Muslims. They had beards; they prayed five times a day, they fasted during Ramadan and they had performed the Haj pilgrimage.” The next they would tell him, Nayyar argued, was that he had lied during a federal investigation, which spells obstruction of justice.
The FBI agents demanded Nayyar’s phone records since 2000. The next day, one of the FBI agents spoke to Nayyar on the phone saying his assistance was being sought by the FBI. The agent wanted to check with Nayyar’s children 10 phone numbers that had allegedly been called from the Zaidi home. Of those 10 numbers, the agent gave Nayyar just one Karachi number and one in China. The Karachi number belonged to a bankrupt textile business and it had been disconnected in 2000. The other numbers that he wasn’t shown were said to be located in Malaysia, the Netherlands, Pakistan and India.
The agent also showed Nayyar a thick file with his picture, while accusing him of credit card fraud in six different states. The agent refused to show him the report on the basis of which it was being claimed that he had committed credit card fraud in six states.
Nayyar concludes his letter to the Attorney General thus, “If my life depended on it, I could tell a tale of federal crimes for 1001 nights to whoever is the godfather of this syndicate.”
Nayyar was indicted by a federal grand jury on April 23, 2008, but his court-appointed lawyer has refused to show him the complaint, advising him instead to cooperate with the FBI or “you will die here”.
Khalid Hasan is Daily Times’ US-based correspondent. His e-mail is email@example.com
Source: Daily times, 14/9/2008