Lynne Jackson of Albany is walking to tell a story and fight for justice.
On Thursday, she stopped in Oneonta during her “Journey for Justice,” a walk and larger effort to collect petition signatures supporting an appeal in the case of Yassin Aref, a Muslim convicted in a federal terrorism case who is serving a 15-year sentence in a prison in Indiana.
Aref, a leader at an Albany mosque, was unjustly convicted after being set up in a FBI sting, said Jackson, co-founder of Project SALAM, which stands for “Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslims.” On Friday, Jackson started a 133-mile walk between Albany and Binghamton, where she plans to submit the petitions to the federal judge who presided in the case.
Aref’s story was the focus of Jackson’s presentation at the Quakers-Butternuts Friends Meeting at the First United Presbyterian Church in Oneonta on Thursday. Some listeners shared other stories of injustice and criticism of the government, including the Patriot Act, and of acts of entrapment.
Aref was a United Nations refugee from Iraq who relocated to Albany in 1999, Jackson said. He was convicted of terrorist activities in 2006 and appeals have been unsuccessful. Mohammed Hossain also was convicted in the case.
In 2011, Aref filed a Freedom of Information Act request, which resulted in “dramatic new evidence showing that the FBI originally thought he was an Al-Qaeda agent, Mohamed Yasin,” according to Project SALAM. The evidence wasn’t shown to Aref, his defense team or the jury, Jackson said, and Mohamed Yasin was killed in the Middle East in 2010.
Aref’s attorneys are appealing on the basis of this information, seeking that the verdict be overturned or a new trial granted. Jackson said the walk is to show that “we in Albany have never forgotten Yassin” or the injustice of his case. Aref is scheduled to be released in 2018, she said.