Islamic Human Rights Commission
27 March 2007
Support Dr Sami Al-Arian: Political Prisoner of the USA
IHRC urges all campaigners to support Dr Sami Al-Arian. Brief background to his case can be found below. For further details and information on how you can help, please visit www.freesamialarian.com
Dr Sami Al-Arian was a tenured professor at the University of Florida until after 9-11 when the school’s administration in accordance with Governor Jeb Bush, attempted to fire him for his outspoken views, work for Palestine, and activism for civil liberties. In February 2003, he was arrested and charged in a terrorism conspiracy case. He spent two and a half years in prison, in solitary confinement and under the most atrocious conditions before he was finally given his day in court.
Following a six-month trial that featured over 70 government witnesses, 400 intercepted phone, and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars spent on the investigation, the jury acquitted Dr Al-Arian of most of the serious charges against him. On the remaining charges, jurors voted 10 to 2 in favour of acquittal.
Since his acquittal in December 2005, Dr Al-Arian has remained in prison. Following the trial, the government indicated its intention to retry him on the remaining charges, which is unprecedented given the jury\’s overwhelming rejection of the case. In April 2006, following pressure from the government and on the advice of his attorneys, Dr Al-Arian agreed to a plea agreement to finally put an end to this ordeal, especially to end the suffering of his family.
The terms of the plea agreement were in line with Dr Al-Arian’s long-standing contention that he never contributed to the violent actions of any organization. The government was forced to settle for a single charge of providing services to people associated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Central to the plea negotiations was Dr Al-Arian\’s insistence that he would not be subject to any further prosecution or called to cooperate with the government on any matter.
Defying all reason, in May 2006, the judge ignored the government\’s recommendation that he be given the lowest possible sentence, and sentenced Dr Al-Arian to the maximum. Furthermore, his comments were in no way supported by information or recommendations in the pre-sentence report or the plea agreement, which included a statement by the Department of Justice that Dr Al-Arian\’s actions involved no violence, no victims, and no support for a forbidden, \”terrorist\” organization. The decision prolonged Dr Al-Arian\’s imprisonment by an estimated 11 months, projecting his release and deportation in April 2007.
Last October, in violation of the plea agreement, a government prosecutor in Virginia, recently revealed to have made numerous racist and anti-Muslim statements, called Dr Al-Arian to testify before a grand jury investigating an Islamic think tank. Dr Al-Arian refused to testify and was consequently held in civil contempt.
According to the law, Dr Al-Arian must be removed from the status of contempt if the grand jury is closed or if the judge is convinced that no amount of prison time will coerce him into testifying. Dr Al-Arian can be held up to 18 months more on this basis, with reviews every 6 months. In addition, the remaining time he has left on his original sentence is suspended until after the end of the contempt. Given this fact, the government has potentially delayed his release from this April to October 2008.
One month after Dr Al-Arian was placed in civil contempt, the grand jury term expired. However, less than a month later, on January 22, a new grand jury was once again impaneled by federal prosecutor Kromberg. Dr Al-Arian again expressed his ethical stance against testifying, and was again held in civil contempt prolonging his suffering and imprisonment by up to 18 months. A judge will also review his status every six months and could continue to extend the sentence until he cooperates.
These latest developments are a troubling confirmation of Dr Al-Arian\’s words that his case is inherently political. Despite a legal process that took its course, ending with his acquittal, Dr Al-Arian continues to be imprisoned 14 months following the verdicts in his trial. In spite of an agreement intended to resolve his case once and for all, the government has continued to harass Dr Al-Arian and mire him further in a legal purgatory.
To protest this relentless government harassment and the prolongation of his imprisonment, Dr Al-Arian, who is diabetic, went on a hunger strike. After 60 days of his water-only hunger strike, in which he lost 55 pounds (i/4 of his body weight) and his ability to walk, Dr Al-Arian suspended his hunger strike due to the pleas of his family.
It is essential for all to support Dr Sami Al-Arian in his struggle for justice. Please visit www.freesamialarian.com for further details on the case and information on how you can help.
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“And what reason have you that you should not fight in the way of Allah and of the weak among the men and the women and the children, (of) those who say: Our Lord! Cause us to go forth from this town, whose people are oppressors, and give us from Thee a guardian and give us from Thee a helper.”
Holy Qur’an: Chapter 4, Verse 75
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