TAMPA — A handful of protesters staged a demonstration for the media in front of the federal courthouse in Tampa late Tuesday morning, accusing the government of making bogus criminal cases against American Muslims and anti-war demonstrators.
Four spoke briefly about how people are railroaded into criminal acts by pushy government agents. As an example, the demonstrators used the case of Sami Osmakac, recently convicted in Tampa of several terrorism- and weapons-related charges. The jury did not believe his defense, that he was entrapped by the government.
Avni Osmakac said his younger brother has a mental illness and was vulnerable to suggestions by agents intent on bringing criminal charges.
Sami Osmakac was not an Islamic radical like he was portrayed in court, Avni Osmakac said.
“Everything he knows about religion came from them,” Avni Osmakac said. Since 2010, 18 confidential informants and undercover agents surrounded Sami Osmakac, filling his head with thoughts of killing Americans, Avni Osmakac said in front of the courthouse where his brother was convicted last month.
“He was an easy target” because of a mental illness that surfaced in 2010, the elder brother said.
Sami Osmakac is awaiting sentencing for trying to possess a weapon of mass destruction and possessing an unregistered machine gun. He faces up to life in prison. Avni Osmakac said his brother remains on a suicide watch in jail.
Sami Osmakac was arrested Jan. 7, 2012. Authorities said he planned to detonate a car bomb outside MacDinton’s, a pub in South Tampa, and then drive to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, where he planned to use grenades and guns to take hostages, demanding the release of Muslim prisoners. After that was accomplished, the plan was to feign surrender and then, as law enforcement moved in, set off a suicide vest.
In a “martyrdom video” he created just before his arrest, Sami Osmakac said the attack was payback, partly for the death of Osama bin Laden. In one secretly recorded meeting with an undercover FBI agent, Sami Osmakac can be heard saying what he was about to do would be the second 9/11.
Jared Hamil, an activist with the Committee to Stop FBI Repression Tampa Bay, said Osmakac “was set up. The FBI took advantage of a mentally ill man.”
Agents pushed Osmakac, he said. “They gave him money to buy fake weapons.”
He accused the FBI of making hundreds of cases through entrapment, including the terror-related case against Sami Al-Arian, whose lengthy criminal ordeal in federal court ended last week, when a federal judge in Virginia dismissed the case against the former computer science professor at the University of South Florida.
That investigation and prosecution lasted 10 years and included 400,000 recorded conversations, Hamil said, “all because he was a Palestinian and an activist. It’s much more than entrapment. It’s a link in a chain of oppression.”
The government, during the Osmakac trial, defended the FBI investigative methods as necessary because officials can’t afford to wait until dangerous people find weapons on their own and launch real attacks and hurt innocent people.