Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, the leader of a group of Hanafi Muslims convicted of various charges stemming from the takeover of three Washington buildings last March, is a 'patriot' with an "insatiable intolerance for injustice" who should be placed on probation and not in jail, his attorney said yesterday.
Harry T. Alexander, a former Superior Court judge, argued that the government's request that the 56-year-old Khaalis be imprisoned for a total of 123 years "is cruel, vindictive and inhuman."
"It is obvious the government intends that he never see the light of day ever outside confines of prison walls" Alexander said in a seven-page memorandum submitted to Judge Nicholas S. Nunzio yesterday.
Khaalis has been intimidated, humiliated and embarrassed since his arrest and all 12 Hanafi Muslims "have been treated like the seem of the earth." Alexander told Nunzio.
"The government has had its pound of flesh," Alexander said in asking that his client be placedon probation.
Federal prosecutors asked Nunzio in a memorandum earlier this week to sentence all 12 men to life imprisonment as a warning to other potential terrorists that the courts will deal harshly with terrorist activity.
Tuesday morning, Nunzio will sentence Khaalis and the 11 other Hanafis who were convicted by a jury on July 23 of armed kidnapping and other charges related to the takeover, during which one man was killed and 149 persons were taken hostage.
Specifically, Khaalis was found guilty of 24 counts of armed kidnaping, one court of murder in the second degree, two counts of assault with intent to kill and one count of assault with a dangerous weapon.
In the memorandum, Alexander said there was never any intent on Khaalis' part "to engage in what the prosecution has called a three-day regin of terror,' or 'senseless murder," or 'brutal assaults,'"
"When vicious vindictiveness and the concept of unholy retribution are stripped from this case, it will clearly be seen that the city was not 'brought to its knees' . . . "said Alexander, who referred to Khaalis as the "khalifa," or leader, throughout his memorandum.
Alexander recounted ths government's argument that Khaalis had an arsenal of over 9,000 rounds of ammunition and that he had the power over his followers to order the killing of hostages and that "hundreds and thousands of police and innocent citizens could have been massacred."
"But the Khalifa was not a Hitler, nor an Idi Amin, not a South African tyrant," Alexander said." . . . the Khalifa and the Hanfi Muslims did not intent to effect a massacre or to kill0."
The prosecution was correct, Alexander said, "it could have been done. That it was not . . . reveals the Khalifa'sheartfelt feeling for life and limb, absent specific criminal intent to mayhem, assault or murder."
"Thus this man . . . when considered in the absence of passion, emotion, bias and prejudice, either because of his religion, or his race, should be placed on probation," Alexander said.
The government contended that Khaalis and the 11 other defendants seized the three buildings and took hostages in an effort to get authorities to turn over to them five Black Muslims convicted of murdering seven members of Khaalis' family at Hanafi headquarters here in 1973.
In addition, the government said, the takeover was carried out to stop the showing of the film "Mohammad, Messenger of God," which the Hanafis believe is sacrilegious.
In his memorandum, Alexander said Khaalis, strongly motivated by his religion, felt the movie "had to be stopped." Such religious motivation shoudl be taken into consideration at time of sentencing, Alexander said.
Alexander cited a report by the Probation Department, which interviewed Khaalis in preparation for sentencing. The officer who prepared the report found Khaalis to be "a deeply troubled man who has been hurt to the core by the massacre of his family; especially the son he was grooming to follow his footsteps at the leader of the Hanafi movement in this country.
"This is a man of varied experiences as is attested to by his employment career and his long involvement in the struggle for equality and justice in this country. It appears that he has been fighting the 'system' most of his life and struggling to find answers to age-old problems of division, hatred, and hostility among men," Alexander said the probation officer wrote.
Khaalis has had a myriad of occupations, from postal employee and longshoreman to teacher and community relations director for the Urban League, Alexander said. After nine years of effort, Alexander said, Khaalis received a college degree and has taught noncredited courses at Columbia University's graduate school.
During his life, Alexander said, Khaalis "gave much to his country notwithstanding many years of oppression, obstacles, and disadvantages hurled in his face by "the system.'"
"A man who possesses the vast knowledge and experience, education, wisdom and religious position, such as the Khalifa, should not be so massacred," by the government's request that he be sentenced to serve such a lengthy prison term, Alexander argued.
The hostages were seized last March 9 at the international headquarters of B'nai B'rith, the Jewish service organization, located at 1640 Rhode Island Ave. NW; at the Islamic Center, 2551 Massachusetts Ave. NW; and at the District Building, Washington's city hall, at 14th and E Street NW.
In the government's memorandum the lowest penalty sought for any of the 12 men was 45 years to life in prison.