Fai gets bail, and two good lawyers
Washington, July 27 (ANI): Kashmiri propagandist Ghulam Nabi Fai, accused of fronting for Pakistan's ISI in the United States, was granted bail, but put under house arrest and electronic monitoring by a federal judge.
Fai was escorted into the courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia, by federal marshals in the typical green prisoner jumpsuit - a huge comedown for a man who for two decades met the mighty and the powerful of American politics as the "voice" on Kashmir.
Judge Thomas Rawles Jones ordered his release Tuesday on a personal bond of $100,000, rejecting the prosecution plea to keep Fai in prison because he might flee the country.
Prosecutor Gordon Kromberg, who argued strongly against granting bail, revealed during the hearing that Fai had admitted since his arrest that he was "affiliated" with the ISI. The ISI gave him money, ISI "approved" his budgets, and that it directed him.
Fai is charged with a criminal conspiracy to act as an agent of Pakistan in the US without registering as a lobbyist and falsifying and concealing facts. The maximum sentence on both counts is five years.
As soon as the bail was granted, the tense atmosphere in the Virginia courtroom broke as Fai's wife, Chang Ning Ying Q, a Chinese American, along with a dozen supporters rushed towards Fai who waved somewhat hesitantly before being whisked away by guards.
One of Fai's two lawyers, Khurram Wahid, was so elated that he went on to compare Fai's "struggle" with that of Nelson Mandela, comparing the US government by implication to the apartheid regime for keeping a man as sterling as Fai behind bars.
Judge Jones, curt, matter-of fact and simply blase about the political drama around Fai's arrest, went about his business as if it was just another bail hearing. He cut Wahid short twice but also didn't buy the entire prosecution argument.
He ordered that Fai's wife "surrender" her passport and that Fai's movements be restricted to the Washington area. Fai will not be allowed to be in contact with anyone, especially "agents" of a foreign government.
About 40 of Fai's supporters, who came for the hearing, gathered outside the courthouse later and vowed to continue the fight. Egged on the presence of many television cameras, nearly all of them from Indian channels, some broke into impromptu but incoherent diatribes against India.
One not-so-young man simultaneously fulminated against India's "RAAA agency" (meaning the R andAW) and its alleged role in Kashmir while asking me as an aside if a particular Indian reporter was "single." His fake seriousness was a little like the Kashmir American Council run by Fai.
Fai's lawyer Wahid, a Pakistani American lawyer from Florida, told ANI that he was hired by the family soon after Fai was arrested. He in turn asked that the family also hire Ginsberg, a powerful lawyer known for her expertise in national security litigation.
Together they presented quite a front, each making a forceful presentation in court to diminish the prosecution demand against bail. Ginsberg successfully argued that Fai had willingly met the FBI agent, traveled to London and returned and therefore posed no risk of flight. She dismissed the prosecution's contention that the ISI would be "obliged" to defend him and may whisk him away. She called it "wild speculation."
Clearly the prosecutor was thinking of the Raymond Davis affair where the US government, the CIA and even President Barack Obama got into the act to get Davis out of Pakistan. Wouldn't the ISI do the same for its man?
Wahid and Ginsberg said that the next hearing may be held only a month from now. The two sides have agreed that more time is needed because of the amount of evidence presented by the prosecution. The defence needs to go through seven boxes that were given to them today as supporting documents. The defence has waived its right to a "speedy trial" and got another 35 days.
Ginsberg, named as one of the 75 top lawyers in the area by Washingtonian magazine, told ANI that the prosecution might file "additional" charges. But she stressed the government had to prove the money trail and that failing to register as an agent "was not a serious offence."
The prosecution has filed a 44-page affidavit which gives details of Fai's "handlers" in the ISI and the hawala method used to transfer money from Pakistan to the US. FBI agents have e-mails and phone intercepts implicating Fai.
From listening to Ginsberg and Wahid, the defense lawyers, it was clear that the essence of their argument would be that Fai may have taken ISI's money but he did not represent Pakistani government's position. He always talked of independence for Kashmir while Pakistan "claims" the whole of Kashmir for itself. By Seema Sirohi (ANI)
Attn: News Editors/News Desks: The views expressed in the above article are that of Ms. Seema Sirohi, a Washington based correspondent and an authoritative columnist for the Indian weekly Outlook.
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