On Tuesday, the trial of Aakash Dalal commenced in a US court for allegedly masterminding a synagogue bombing plot in New Jersey. Arthur J Pais reports on the proceedings.
With his teary parents offering him a wan smile, and about four dozen Indian Americans who braved a bitterly cold day to be in the court to show their solidarity, Aakash Dalal appeared in a New Jersey court for the first day of his trial.
Clad in the prison orange suit and shackled in his legs, the 20 year old Dalal, whose wrists were also locked, has been in mostly solitary confinement for nearly two years. He is on a $4 million bail for allegedly masterminding the bombing of a New Jersey synagogue, conspiracy to kill a government official, and many other charges. His bail was dramatically increased soon after his arrest for allegedly plotting to have the prosecutor in the case killed.
The judge denied a request by Dalal’s attorney to have the trial sent to another district and conducted under a different judge because the adverse publicity the case had gathered in the present court area in the Bergen County of New Jersey.
Dalal is charged with masterminding and urging his school friend to bomb the synagogues. It has been implied that Dalal, who was an enthusiastic volunteer for the presidential candidate Ron Paul, had been inspired by the latter’s strident anti-Israeli rhetoric.
Also present in the court was Anthony M Graziano, the co-defendant. Prosecutors say that Graziano carried out Dalal’s plans.
Dalal, charged with aggravated arson, bias intimidation, conspiracy to commit aggravated arson, and two counts of criminal mischief, is held 21 hours a day since his incarceration in a six-foot by eight-foot cell all by himself.
“This is terrible,” said community leader Pradip ‘Peter’ Kothari speaking to Rediff.com. “We have hundreds of petitions requesting the court to reduce the bail and remove him from solitary confinement. This boy has no prior criminal convictions. He is no flight risk. He is the only son of his parents and his parents and many family members live in New York and New Jersey.”
Kothari said the bail is set without 10 percent option, “which is impossible for any average family to meet.”
“This trial has been postponed several times,” he added, “and this young man spends his time in solitary. Reduce the bail, and let him have a fair hearing. Then, if he is guilty, let him face the judgment. ”
In a statement, Kothari said, without elaboration, ‘This case was over-charged from the outset due to the heightened sensitivity and personal political agendas.’
The statement added, ‘Aakash is US born citizen and was President of Young American for Liberty in Rutgers (University) with perfect GPA, before his arrest. He is accused of receiving military training in Ukraine, Russia or Korea. The truth is that he has never travelled outside of Untied States and all that justice apparatus has to do is to check DHS records. Any person who travels outside US has to have his/her passport stamped. Justice apparatus has not even checked that.’
“We are not asking to prove him innocent or endorsing any attack on any religious places,” Kothari had told Rediff.com recently when he took it upon himself to “arouse the community’s concern.”
Kothari, who has complained of police inaction when Hindu temples in New Jersey were attacked and vandalised on many occasion, added, “As a matter of fact our stand and record for the last 25 years is to fight racial bias and hate crime. We are simply demanding to lower the bail to a reasonable amount, change of venue for fair trial and to give him a speedy trial and his day in court which all citizens of US deserve.”
He warned, “I am telling the community, today it is Dalal family, tomorrow it could be one of our family member in similar situation.”
In an interview with American Bazaar, Kothari charged the Jewish community with masterminding the course of the trial.
‘This is totally controlled by the Jewish community,’ he was quoted as saying, ‘that is the only possible reason for this… Many other religions have been attacked but the government has not done anything, but a synagogue gets attacked by someone and now he [Dalal] gets arrested without having any direct involvement with the crime […] Our community better wake up.’