Why We Represent Akhror Saidakhmetov

April 7, 2015 in Civil Rights, Terrorism

Over the past month, the press and individuals from around the world have asked how we could represent Akhror Saidakhmetov, a 19-year-old Brooklyn resident from Kazakhstan accused of attempting to join ISIS.  We wanted to set the records straight with a simple answer:  It is our privilege to be assigned to represent Akhror.  This case touches upon the fundamental values in our criminal justice system.

First, the presumption of innocence in America still holds.  Until either a verdict or plea of guilty, Akhror is innocent.  Many people view this rule of law as simply a legal nicety on the way to conviction.  Especially in cases involving accusations of terrorism, there is a strong inclination to presume guilt.  The government invokes the specter of 9/11, and urges a quick conviction in the name of public safety.  We must resist this mob mentality.  Courts, the judges, and the Constitution, all exist to maintain the rule of law.  We consider it our duty to protect the presumption of innocence, and constitutional rights of all our clients, and it is our privilege to be assigned by the Court to work on this matter and other difficult cases.

Second, we have seen a disturbing pattern since 9/11 of pre-emptive criminal prosecutions where the FBI has manufactured alleged terrorist conduct to entrap individuals for their religious and political beliefs.  Since that fateful September day, there have been approximately 500 “terrorism” cases prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.  Over half of those cases involved FBI informants acting as agents provocateur coaxing individuals into incriminating conduct.  In most of these cases, there was never any real terrorist threat.  The FBI provided these individuals with harmless, fake bombs, guns, stinger missiles and other materials to goad otherwise law-abiding people into criminal action.  In fact, it is estimated that over 92% of the “terrorism” cases initiated since 9/11 have been pre-emptive prosecutions where individuals posed no threat to the homeland.  See S. Downs & K. Manley, Inventing Terrorists: The Lawfare of Preemptive Prosecution (Project Salam, May 2014).

It is in this context that we approach Akhror’s case.  The government has acknowledged that a paid informant played a central role in the investigation.  We will be closely examining the role of the government and that informant as this case unfolds.  If we find that the government has acted illegally, we will vigorously defend Akhror’s rights.  It is in these difficult cases that America’s rights and freedoms are truly tested. We are proud to be defending this case and humbled to stand in the tradition of legal lions like Clarence Darrow, John Adams and others who came before us to meet similar challenges.

Adam Perlmutter & Daniel McGuinness

Perlmutter & McGuinness, P.C.