The Law Offices of Haytham Faraj, PLLC
Today, Mr. Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid (Alex Soueid), was sentenced to 18 months in jail for working as an unregistered foreign agent for the Government of Syria. Mr. Souied was indicted in October of last year on those charges and accused of some very serious and very dangerous acts by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and his AUSAs on the case. FBI agents raided his home wearing swat like gear and carrying semiautomatic weapons. They handcuffed his wife who was still in her sleeping gown and terrorized his children. They seized many items from his home, none of which had evidentiary value expect, perhaps, a computer. One of the items they seized was a cardboard box containing military type gear like a flak vest and Kevlar helmet sent to Mr. Soueid from a friend of his in Iraq who worked with the U.S. Government as a contractor. The friend sent it to Mr. Soueid because he had no other address to send it to. The government took all those items, items that accumulate over a lifetime in the course of our lives then used them to argue that Mr. Soueid spied on Syrians in America and that he is a dangerous criminal. They argued that the registered weapons in his home represented lethal instruments to be used to kill or hurt people. They argued that expired bank accounts were not really expired but negotiable instruments to be used to abscond if he is released. They made these arguments in a detention hearing intended to persuade the magistrate judge to place Mr. Soueid in pretrial detention.
During the detention hearing, Haytham Faraj argued that all the evidence and instruments the government brandished in court reflected a benign character. The government made their arguments before a media fearful of asking tough questions of the government and willing to be led by the nose in whichever direction government prosecutors wanted them to be led. While the government tried to build a circumstantial case and sought to portray Mr. Soueid as an agent of the Syrian government, all of his activities represented speech and activism protected by the 1st Amendment. Magistrate Judge Jones agreed, stating “at best Mr. Soueid is a low level operative” at worst the government picked up an innocent man. He ordered Mr. Soueid released pending trial because he found that there was no risk of flight and that Mr. Soueid did not pose a danger to the community.
Mr. Soueid’s sentence of 18 months proves that the government overcharged, overreached and was on a wild goose chase the entire time for politically expedient reasons. Prosecutors fabricated evidence to support their arguments to make Mr. Soueid appear more culpable and more sinister than he really is. The government invoked state secrecy laws closed the case to the public and denied Mr. Soueid the constitutionally guaranteed right to a public trial. They got the judge to order the record sealed and prohibited the media and public from observing or watching the proceedings. They denied Mr. Soueid the most fundamental constitutional rights in a criminal prosecution under the pretext of the boogey man called state security.
The 18 months sentence demonstrates that the government prosecuted Mr. Soueid for political activities and for political speech that was inconvenient in the current political climate of the United States. I said all along that Mr. Soueid did nothing more than engage in political activities and speech permitted under the Constitution of the United States. But in today’s political climate, even constitutionally protected speech can be turned into something sinister by malevolent prosecutors concerned with self promotion and advancing Government regulated political views.
Haytham Faraj is a Chicago criminal defense attorney and trial lawyer. He can be reached at email@example.com