SACRAMENTO — For the first time in more than 14 years, Hamid Hayat was able to join his family and community Wednesday to celebrate the holiday of Eid.
“I’m still in shock. I can’t believe this day came,” Hayat said. “I still think this is a dream. I wake up and I still think I’m going to be in prison.”
It was a tearful reunion for the 36-year-old man from Lodi who was just released from prison on Friday.
He was convicted back in 2006 of supporting terrorists and training with them while visiting family in Pakistan.
“He told them the truth about what he had done in Pakistan, about being with his family, being with his mother, playing a lot of cricket, and never ever going to a camp,” said appellate attorney Dennis Riordan.
A federal judge overturned that conviction late last month, saying Hayat’s inexperienced defense attorney failed to contact witnesses and effectively represent him.
His new legal team maintains his innocence, saying investigators coerced him to confess.
“Through all of this his faith sustained him,” Riordan explained. “I have to say, if this experience proved anything into the world, Hamid Hayat is a man of peace.”
The Hayat family just wants to get back to their lives, all the while praying their ordeal is over.
“All the normal things that normal families do here in America,” said Hayat’s sister, Raheela.
“I will never be able to pay back none of you brothers and sisters, none of my supporters,” Hayat said. “I am in your guys’ debt for the rest of my life. I’m your guys’ servant until the day of judgment, thank you.”
While his case was overturned that does not mean he was exonerated. Hayat could still face legal challenges moving forward.
Federal prosecutors have not yet announced whether they will retry the case. They could also appeal the judge’s decision.