A US judge has placed Kashmiri American Council director Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai under house arrest with an electronic monitoring device and barred him from leaving the Washington metropolitan area.
The judge has also set a bond of $100,000 for Fai, which is to be signed by his wife as the co-guarantor. Fai’s wife has also been asked to surrender her passport to US authorities while Fai’s own passport is already with the US government. Fai has also been asked not to maintain any contact with any foreign government or witness.
In a federal courthouse, nearly two and a half hours after his case was scheduled to begin, Dr Fai was brought into courtroom number 501, filled primarily with his supporters and journalists from the subcontinent.
As Dr Fai’s wife and friends watched on, prosecution lawyer Gordon Kromberg began by telling the court that Fai had admitted to receiving funds from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.
However, Fai’s lawyers Nina Ginsberg and Khurram Wahid painted a case of Fai maintaining independence from the ISI’s viewpoint. According to the defence, Fai did receive funds over the years from the ISI but had always raised his voice for the cause of Kashmiris. In the events that he organised, the lawyers said, he always took care to present a balanced point of view by inviting both Indians and Pakistanis. He may have received bullet points from them on subjects but on many occasions, said his lawyers, Dr Fai’s stance on Kashmir differed from that of the Pakistani government.
The defence also called Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Agent Sarah Linden to testify, who has been named in the affidavit prepared by the FBI against Fai. Agent Linden said that Fai had in the past denied having links to the ISI or his handlers. When asked about three handlers by the FBI, Agent Linden said that Fai denied knowing two of them and said he had spoken to the third one ten years ago. However, said the prosecution, Fai had admitted to receiving funds from the ISI after he was questioned following his arrest.
In an absurd twist to the case, Linden also talked about a paper clipping that had been found in Fai’s luggage after he had returned from a visit by the airport authorities. The newspaper clip was about the Raymond Davis case, however, Fai had said that the flip side of the newspaper bore his photograph, which is why he had saved and carried the newspaper clipping with him.
Speaking to reporters after court proceedings, Fai’s lawyers handed out a statement prepared by Fai himself. According to the statement, “It has been my lifelong commitment to the people of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, irrespective of their religious background and cultural affiliations, to help achieve the right of self-determination to decide their future. God willing, I will continue to do that in days, weeks, months and years to come.”
Fai was arrested earlier this month and has been charged with not informing the US government that he was in the pay of the Pakistan government while lobbying for the Kashmir cause and donating funds to Congressmen. Fai’s lawyers said that they have waived the 30-day speed trial option, and will, over the next few months, be studying the documents associated with the case.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2011.