MLFA Funds Appeal of Ziyad Yaghi's "Thought-Crime" Conviction

Attorney Says Defendant Ziyad Yaghi was Convicted for Personal Beliefs, Not Actions.

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Ziyad Yaghi

Ziyad Yaghi

"There was no evidence that Ziyad committed any criminal actions or even agreed to take any such actions." -- Attorney Robert Boyle

Dallas, TX (PRWEB) April 30, 2013

Representatives from the Muslim Legal Fund of America, a national civil liberties defense organization, agreed to fund the appeal in the case of United States of America v. Ziyad Yaghi (Case No. 5:09-CR-216-8-FL), in which appellate attorney Robert Boyle says Yaghi was convicted based solely on First Amendment activities.

According to court documents, Yaghi and six other defendants, commonly referred to as the "Carolina 7," were arrested on July 27, 2009, and accused of conspiring to provide material support to terrorist groups overseas. On October 13, 2011, a jury found Yaghi guilty. Approximately 90 days later, Yaghi was sentenced to 32 years in prison. He was 23 years old at the time of sentencing.

The appellate brief argues that the trial judge refused to instruct the jury that Yaghi and his co-defendants could not be convicted solely on the basis of their beliefs or advocacy of those beliefs, as guaranteed by the First Amendment. Boyle said that this error was prejudicial to the trial and warrants a reversal of the convictions.

"The bulk of the government's evidence consisted of the defendants' mere possession of books, videos and literature as well as public statements on social media," said Boyle. "There was no evidence that Ziyad committed any criminal actions or even agreed to take any such actions."

MLFA representatives feel that this case is another test for the government to see how far prosecutors can push back civil liberties in the name of national security. One issue of concern to the charitable legal fund is the fact that rap lyrics Yaghi authored and posted to his social media accounts were used as evidence against him.

"If we criminalize art, what's next?" asked Khalil Meek, Executive Director of MLFA. "We have a proud tradition of First Amendment protections in America, and MLFA will continue funding cases that defend these rights."

According to Boyle, the appeal will likely be argued before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia, around August or September (Case No. 5:09-CR-216-8-FL).

Robert Boyle, Esq. is an attorney specializing in criminal appeals, civil rights and human rights litigation. He has represented several targets of government entrapment in alleged "material support" prosecutions.

The Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA) is a national civil liberties legal fund that defends the U.S. Bill of Rights by supporting legal cases involving civil liberty encroachments. Established in 2001, MLFA has defended freedom of speech, freedom of religion, right to a fair trial, due process of law and many of our nation's civil liberties. To learn more about MLFA, visit their website at http://www.mlfa.org.


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