- Sami Al-Arian is a political prisoner in Police State
America. This article reviews his case briefly and updates it to the present.
- Because of his faith, ethnicity and political activism,
the Bush administration targeted Al-Arian for supporting "terrorism."
In fact, he's a Palestinian refugee, distinguished professor and scholar,
community leader and civil activist.
- Nonetheless, the FBI harassed him for 11 years, arrested
him on February 20, 2003, and falsely accused him of backing organizations
fronting for Palestinian Islamic Jihad - a 1997 State Department-designated
"Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO)."
- A week later, in spite of his many awards, impeccable
credentials and tenured status, University of South Florida president Judy
Genshaft fired him under right wing pressure.
- Since February 20, 2003, Al-Arian has been imprisoned
- first at Tampa, Florida's Orient Road jail, then on to more than a dozen
different maximum and other federal prison facilities. He's currently on
hunger strike at Warsaw, Virginia's Northern Neck Regional jail after being
transferred back March 18 from Butner, North Carolina's medical prison.
- Al-Arian's trial began in June 2005 and was a travesty.
It lasted six months, cost an estimated $50 million, and the prosecution
called 80 witnesses, including Israeli intelligence agents and victims
of suicide bombings to prejudice the jury. It introduced portions of hundreds
of wiretapped phone calls from over a half million recorded; "evidence"
from faxes, emails and what was seized from his home; quotes from his speeches
and lectures; conferences, events and rallies he attended; articles he
wrote; books he owned; magazines he edited; and various publications he
read - all legal and in no way incriminating unless falsely twisted to
appear that way.
- After years of effort and millions spent, Al-Arian was
exonerated. On December 6, 2005 after 13 days of deliberation, the jury
acquitted him of all (eight) "terrorism" charges. They were deadlocked
10 - 2 for acquittal on nine others. All of them were false and unjust.
- Nonetheless, within days, the Justice Department said
it would re-try him on the lesser charges. His lawyers called it legal
but a highly unusual move. At the same time and in secret, a plea bargain
deal was struck. It stipulated:
- -- Al-Arian neither engaged in or had any knowledge of
- -- that he would not be required to cooperate further
with prosecutors; and
- -- that he would be released on time served and deported
voluntarily to his country of choice.
- In the meantime, Al-Arian remained in custody pending
sentencing and deportation on May 1, 2006. He expected to be free and his
ordeal ended. Instead, the presiding judge changed the deal. He sentenced
Al-Arian to the maximum 57 months, gave him credit for time served, and
ordered him held for the remaining 11 months, after which an April 2007
deportation would follow. Now it's extended as explained below.
- In October 2006, assistant prosecutor Gordon Kromberg
violated plea bargain terms by subpoenaing Al-Arian before a grand jury.
His defense attorneys tried to block it by citing his "no-grand jury
cooperation" provision to prevent DOJ from springing a perjury-obstruction
trap. Defense's motion was denied, and on November 16 Al-Arian refused
to testify and was held in contempt.
- A month later, the grand jury expired, a new one was
convened, and Al-Arian was again subpoenaed to testify. He continued to
refuse, was held in contempt, and had his sentence increased without mitigation
to April 7, 2008.
- On March 3, 2008 Kromberg ordered Al-Arian before still
another March 19 grand jury, three weeks before his scheduled release and
deportation. On the same day, Al-Arian began a hunger strike against the
government's continued harassment. It's his third one but is life-threatening
for a man in his condition. He's diabetic and needs regular sustenance
to avoid serious health problems. His January through March, 2007 strike
depleted one-fourth of his body weight, gravely harmed him, and ended only
at the urging of his family.
- He's now 20 days into his latest fast, lost 30 pounds,
is weakening, and his life is endangered. On March 12, Al-Arian was transferred
to the Butner, North Carolina medical facility where treatment is poor,
the staff indifferent, and in Al-Arian's case hostile to a designated enemy
of the state. On March 18, he was returned to Warsaw, Virginia's Northern
Neck Regional jail ahead of his third grand jury appearance. Again, he
refused to testify, so he'll likely face new contempt charges and continued
- George Washington University Law School Professor Jonathan
Turley heads up Al-Arian's legal team. On March 3, he released the following
- "On behalf of Mr. Olson and Mr. Meitl and the entire
legal team, (we are greatly disappointed by) the Justice Department('s)
continu(ing)....effort to mete out punishment that it could not secure
from a jury. Having lost (its) case (it's) openly sought to extend (Al-Arian's)
confinement by daisy-chaining grand juries. As in other cases, the government
has given Dr. Al-Arian the choice of an obvious perjury trap or a contempt
sanction. (Either way assures his imprisonment. This) choice....is obnoxious
to our legal system and contrary to any standard of decency. The mistreatment
of Dr. Al-Arian remains an international symbol of how the Bush Administration
has discarded fundamental principles of fairness in a blind pursuit of
retribution against this political activist. We stand committed to fighting
this great injustice and hopefully reuniting Dr. Al-Arian with his family
- In the meantime, his long ordeal continues at a time
lawlessness prevails over justice, and we're all Sami-Al-Arians in America's
"war on terrorism."
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
- Also visit his web site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
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