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Another Case of Injustice


I wonder how many Americans are familiar with Sami Al-Arian and the story of injustice that surrounds this man. I wonder how many Americans are aware that Mr. Al-Arian has spent the past four years in prison. "What has he done?" you ask. I wish I knew the answer. Although Sami Al-Arian was found "not guilty" of the 17 charges against him, the Palestinian Professor and activist remains in jail. "How could that be?" you ask. I wish I knew the answer. Sami Al-Arian was a computer science professor at the University of South Florida. In addition, he was a leading member of the Muslim Community and a prominent activist. (Oh oh. Did someone say "activist?" ) ...

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Another Case of Injustice

Judy Andreas

front-al-arian.jpg

February 11, 2007

I wonder how many Americans are familiar with Sami Al-Arian and the story of injustice that surrounds this man. I wonder how many Americans are aware that Mr. Al-Arian has spent the past four years in prison.

"What has he done?" you ask. I wish I knew the answer. Although Sami Al-Arian was found "not guilty" of the 17 charges against him, the Palestinian Professor and activist remains in jail.

"How could that be?" you ask. I wish I knew the answer. Sami Al-Arian was a computer science professor at the University of South Florida. In addition, he was a leading member of the Muslim Community and a prominent activist. (Oh oh. Did someone say "activist?" )

In February of 2003, Mr. Al-Arian was arrested. He was accused of being a leader of the militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. He received a 50-count indictment by the "Justice" (?) Department. The indictment was against Al-Arian and seven other men. They were charged with conspiracy to commit murder, extortion, giving material support to terrorists, perjury, and other offenses.

The trial ended in December of 2005. THE JURY FAILED TO RETURN A SINGLE GUILTY VERDICT. Al -Arian was acquitted on eight of seventeen counts against him and the jury was deadlocked on the rest.

Four months after the verdict, Al-Arian agreed to plead guilty to one of the remaining charges. He did this in exchange for being released and deported. At his sentencing, however, the judge gave him as much prison time as possible under a plea deal - 57 months.

Although the release date was scheduled for April 2007, a little over two weeks ago, a judge found him in contempt. The charge was that he refused, a second time, to testify before a grand jury in Virginia in a case involving a Muslim think tank. Because of this ruling, the date of Mr. Al-Arian's release could now be extended by as much as 18 months. And so, in response, Al-Arian, who is a diabetic, began a hunger strike.

In an interview from Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Virginia, Sami Al-Arian stated that he is being held on contempt charges.

On January 22nd, he began his hunger strike. He stated the reason for the strike:

"I believe that freedom and human dignity are more precious than life itself. In essence, Im taking a principled stand, that Im willing to endure whatever it takes to win my freedom. Im also protesting the continuous harassment campaign by the government against me because of my political beliefs. This campaign was supposed to have ended when we concluded the plea deal last year, but unfortunately it hasn't... After two-and-a-half years in pretrial detention with Guantanamo-like conditions, mostly under 23-hour lockdowns, followed by a six-month trial with eighty witnesses, including twenty-one from Israel, thousands of documents, phone interceptions, physical surveillance, websites, hearsay evidence, anything and everything they could think of, preceded by twelve years of investigations, tens of millions of dollars, some even say over $80 million spent on this investigation, with ninety-four charges against me and my co-defendants and with my defense only being four words -- 'I rest my case' -- how did the jury see it? They gave them zero convictions. Unfortunately, however, the judge stopped the deliberations, because of a distressed juror, and they ended up with some hung counts, although they were mostly ten-to-two in my favor. What happened was that the government had the power to retry me on these hung counts. My attorneys had prior commitments and would have left, which meant I probably would have to hire a new legal team and wait perhaps for another year or more for a new trial."
Sami Al-Arian was told that he sponsored a researcher in 1994 and 95 to come to the United States to conduct research and edit a magazine. He was told that he wasn't candid or forthcoming when interviewed by a journalist in November 95.

"I was told that I helped my brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najiar, to get out of prison when he was detained on secret evidence between 97 and 2000. My main concern with this deal was that the judge got out of hand, because association is constitutionally protected. And everyone kept saying that this was just a face-saving way for the government to end this, and no one was going to object. And, indeed, no one did....Now, they want me to testify before a grand jury in Virginia. We believe that this is either a perjury or contempt trap. Back in August of 2000, I was also subpoenaed before an immigration court, and I was asked if I believe in the freedom of Islam through violence. My answer was one word: no. But this was nonetheless one of the counts against me, which the jury acquitted me of. Now, I have been held in contempt for over a month last year, and then that grand jury expired. Then they reconvened another grand jury this year, and I have been held now in contempt since January 22nd. That's why Im on a hunger strike."

There is an ongoing investigation of some of the think tanks and charities in Virginia and they want to ask Sami about them. He states that he hasn't had any relationship with any of these since 92 or 93, but he believes that this is just a pretext to hold him either in contempt or charge him with perjury.

" Whatever I say, they are going to tell me that am lying"

Sami has been told that on civil contempt charges, it is really in the hands of the judge who has the power to lift this tomorrow, if he wants to. It is not supposed to be punishment. Its supposed to be coercion. It can go for six months, renewed two more times, which brings it up to eighteen months. And after that, the government can even charge him with criminal contempt. And so, it could go on for years and years.

Al-Arian states "I think its politically motivated, so this might very well be the case. "

On September 2001, Al-Arian had been invited to be a guest on "The O'Reilly Factor". He was given the impression that the purpose of the interview was to discuss Arab-American reactions to 9/11. After all, Sami Al-Arian was a prominent member of the Muslim community in south Florida as well as a leading Palestinian academic and activist. ( Perhaps Al-Arian was unfamiliar with the tactics of Shill O'Reilly) True to form, O'Reilly used the interview time to accuse Al-Arian of supporting terrorism and concluded by saying "If I was the C.I.A., I'd follow you wherever you went."

The day after the interview, the University of South Florida, where Al-Arian worked, received hundreds of threatening letters and emails. I cannot help but wonder if actual individuals wrote that barrage of letters. Could it be that so many people are fooled by O'Reilly ?

Thirty six hours after the interview, the University put Sami Al-Arian on paid leave. A year and a half later, he was arrested.

The story of Sami Al-Arian is not over. This is a story that extends far beyond the walls of the prison in Virginia. This is a story that touches more than just the lives of the family and community in which Sami Al-Arian resided. This is a story of injustice. This is a story that touches us all.

As you sit down to your dinner tonight, take some time to reflect on what is happening to freedom and dignity in the United States of America.

" I believe that freedom and human dignity are more precious than life itself. In essence, Im taking a principled stand, that Im willing to endure whatever it takes to win my freedom. Im also protesting the continuous harassment campaign by the government against me because of my political beliefs." SAMI AL-ARIAN

www.judyandreas.com

- JUDE10901@AOL.COM


:: Article nr. 30564 sent on 12-feb-2007 07:20 ECT

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