Three young men were indicted Tuesday in connection with anti-Semitic hate crimes back in May, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced.
The three men, 21-year-old Haider Anjam and 19-year-old Ashan Azad of Midwood, and 20-year-old Daniel Shaukat of Bensonhurst, stand accused of threatening and assaulting Jews in Borough Park on May 22, amid a wave of hate crimes perpetrated against Orthodox Jews in New York and elsewhere.
“All members of Brooklyn’s diverse communities should feel free to go about their day and observe their religion without fear of being targeted,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “Attacks such as those described in this indictment – including violence and threats of violence that stem from bias and bigotry – are abhorrent and will be prosecuted.”
The three are facing up to four years in prison if convicted on the charges, which include assault as a hate crime, menacing as a hate crime, criminal mischief, and criminal obstruction of breathing. They were arrested back in May and were released on bonds “ranging from $4,000 to $5,000,” the DA’s office said.
Anjam and Shaukat have already been arraigned, while Azad will be arraigned “on a later date.” All are expected back in court on Sept. 9.
The men allegedly pulled up to a synagogue on 16th Avenue in Borough Park the evening of May 22, yelling “Free Palestine, kill all the Jews” out of the car window, and spitting in the direction of the congregation. They then got out of the car, approached two men while saying the same statement, and banged on the synagogue door, according to the DA’s office.
A few minutes later, the three allegedly stopped near two Jewish men walking home from Shabbat services on Ocean Parkway. Anjam and Shaukat reportedly exited the car before approaching the two and demanded them to say “free Palestine,” before punching one of them and putting them in a chokehold when they refused. Azad then also exited the car and punched one of the victims. When the victims ran away, Anjam chased them with a cricket bat that had been kept in the car, the DA’s office said.
The incident occurred amidst a continuing rash of anti-Semitic hate crimes in the city. There have been 110 incidents of anti-Semitic bias from Jan. 1 to June 30 of this year in the city, per the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Dashboard, with 44 arrests. That’s well above the 66 incidents and 15 arrests recorded for the same period in 2020 (which coincided with the height of the pandemic). The number of incidents is fewer than the 2019 total for the same period, when police recorded 123 incidents, but more arrests have been executed this year than the 26 made in 2019.
The incident also occurred just one day after a ceasefire was declared between Israel and Hamas, in the wake of the largest conflict between the two in seven years. At least 256 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the conflict. Meanwhile, tensions boiled over in the city, with hate crimes being committed against both Jews and Muslims, and mayoral candidates Eric Adams and Andrew Yang drawing controversy after making statements of unwavering support for Israel.