Film reveals pain of Albany ‘terror’ case involving Shahed Hussain

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But Haque said all he has found has been abject pain and suffering.

Hussain is the infamous FBI informant who has been in the headlines as the owner of the tragic illegal stretch limousine that crashed almost four years ago in the Schoharie County countryside, killing 20 people.

Haque, a downstate doctor who is also a documentary filmmaker, has been pursuing Hussain for much longer than that – dating back to when Hussain was the star government witness in the 2006 terrorism trial of two members of an Albany mosque, Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain.

Next Wednesday, Haque will be at Proctors in Schenectady screening his newly completed documentary on the case called “Witness” that delves into the shadowy world of FBI informants used in the government’s war on terror following the 9/11 attacks. Haque has been working on the project since the two men were sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. 

Haque, a Pakistani-American, started the project more than a decade ago – but insisted that he wait to finish until after Aref and Hossain were released from prison so that they could tell their stories first-hand.

Both men have maintained their innocence since their 2004 arrest on terrorism and money-laundering charges. They claim they were falsely framed by Hussain, who was pretending to be a wealthy Pakistani businessman funneling arms to a terrorist group.

Although federal prosecutors alleged at trial that Hossain and Aref participated in a laundering scheme staged by the FBI involving the shipment of arms to terrorists, the two men said they were entrapped and unaware of the plot and believed Hussain was just loaning Hossain, who ran a pizza shop at the time, money for apartments he was fixing up as rentals. Aref served as a witness to the loan, leading to him being charged as well.

“They were both dying to tell their stories because they were wronged,” Haque said in an interview with the Times Union. 

However, speaking with them wasn’t easy. Although Hossain returned to his home in Albany after he was released from federal prison in mid-2020, Aref was deported to Iraq in 2019, where he lives in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. Haque was able to contact Aref and flew to interview him over several days in what is a rugged and beautiful landscape.

“He is a very smart guy, and he’s very intelligent,” Haque said of Aref, who ended up in the U.S. as a refugee following the first Gulf War and eventually became the imam of an Albany mosque. “He was very happy to talk and talk and talk.”

The FBI has repeatedly declined to comment on Shahed Hussain and his involvement in the Albany sting – or his involvement in the 2018 limo crash. Hussain was out of the country when the crash happened. His son, Nauman Hussain, was in charge of the limo company at the time and was charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in 2019 for allegedly failing to maintain the brakes on the 34-foot stretch Ford Excursion that crashed. He is scheduled to go to trial as early as next month.

Although the Albany terrorism case has been extensively covered by the Times Union and national media, “Witness” provides the most in-depth accounts by Aref and Hossain since their release from prison. They explain for the first time how Shahed Hussain, who went by the name Malik during the sting, was so effective.

“What Malik did – he seduced them with his money,” Haque said. “That seduction had to be fully captured in this film.”

Haque meanwhile has been trying to contact Hussain. His latest trip to Pakistan was unsuccessful, but he believes if he ever does come across Hussain, he would have a lot to talk about.

“I do think he would make an incredible interview,” Haque said.

The film is free to the public and will include a panel discussion involving Hossain in his first public speaking appearance since the film was finished. It is taking place Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. at the GE Theatre at Proctors

 

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