Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Entrapment Blues

There was bad news last week for Tarik Shah, the jazz bassist facing charges for conspiring to aid al-Qaeda. Although there was no news in his case, or at least none receiving coverage in the media, there was a verdict in a case with some similarities.

Shahawar Matin Siraj was convicted on May 24th of conspiring to blow-up the Herald Square subway station. Siraj’s defense claimed entrapment on the part the government and their confidential informants, as Shah’s defense seems likely to do. Unfortunately, the jury rejected that defense in just two days, coming in with a guilty verdict.

Interestingly, Siraj’s attorney Martin Stolar, though disappointed by the verdict, refused to see any anti-Muslim bias on the part of the jury, telling NY1 News:

“That they did not convict my client merely because he’s a Muslim accused of terrorism, that they convicted him because they believe the evidence did not make out the defensive entrapment and they followed the law, and I’m satisfied as a professional with that.”

If you remove the entrapment card and the Muslim persecution card from their hand, one wonders what Shah’s defense has left to play. Regardless, I continue to argue in these cases, entrapment is not a moral defense. These are not nebbish losers seduced by bombshell undercover vice-cops. Siraj was convicted of plotting mass murder. Shah stands accused of aiding and abetting mass murderers, namely the perpetrators of 9-11, al-Qaeda. To be “entrapped” into doing so requires an evil viciousness in one’s heart, and a murderous disregard for human life. We do not yet know if Shah is guilty as charged, but in the case of Siraj, the jury has spoken.