[Ppnews] Trial of Al-Arian has profited the government nothing

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Mar 28 11:25:00 EDT 2007


Reply-To: tampabaycoalitionforjusticeandpeace-owner at yahoogroups.com


Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace
March 28, 2007

TAMPA -- Please see below a round-up of recent media coverage on Dr.
Al-Arian's suspension of his hunger strike and his case in general.

I.  Trial of Al-Arian has profited the government nothing;
editorial, USF Oracle
II. Washington Report on Middle East Affairs special 10-page spread
on Dr. Al-Arian's case
III. Al-Arian Ends Prison Hunger strike; People's Weekly World
IV. Nahla Al-Arian on True Talk

I. Trial of Al-Arian has profited the government nothing
Editorial, USF Oracle, Mar. 26, 2007
http://media.www.usforacle.com/media/storage/paper880/news/2007/03/26
/Opinion/Editorial-2790904.shtml

For now, Sami Al-Arian may have lost his legal fight. But his loss
is America's, too.

The decision passed down Friday by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals, which denied Al-Arian's appeal and upheld a decision by a
Virginia judge to hold him in contempt of court for refusing to
testify, seemed to stand on solid legal ground.

"Everyone agrees that the written plea agreement in the Middle
District of Florida contains no language which would bar the
government from compelling the appellant's testimony before a grand
jury," the court wrote. In fact, Al-Arian's plea agreement mentioned
nothing whatsoever about future testimony. The government is clearly
correct in its interpretation of the letter of the law.

But the law is not a bludgeon - it's a tool of argument. When the
government initially prosecuted Al-Arian, it was intending to use
the law to defend society from terrorism. With the judgment on
Friday, it's almost assured the government has failed in that
mission.

Think about it: The government wanted to prove to a jury of 12
people that Al-Arian was guilty of providing support to a terrorist
organization and failed. The government then wanted Al-Arian to
testify in a case in Alexandria, Va. - going so far as to sentence
him to 18 months in prison for contempt of court after he refused to
do so. The decision by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Friday did
nothing to prove Al-Arian guilty of any federal crime. More
importantly, it will do nothing to motivate him to testify. It will
merely allow him to serve the remainder of his sentence for contempt
of court, followed by the remainder of his 57-month sentence.

Judging from Al-Arian's public support, the government
didn't "expose" Al-Arian at all. The government failed to convince a
jury of Al-Arian's peers that he was guilty, instead resorting to a
plea agreement. In fact, the government has failed in every aspect
of Al-Arian's prosecution. It presumably prosecuted Al-Arian to gain
evidence against other suspected terrorists, imprison a man believed
to be a terrorist and win the moral support of a nation in the
throes of a war on terror. To date, only one of those - Al-Arian's
imprisonment - has occurred. Instead of placing Al-Arian in witness
protection - thereby allaying his fears of retribution for
testimony - the government remained set in its stance on the matter,
and has come up empty-handed.

And the idea that Al-Arian might be - in the words of Paul Perez,
the U.S. District Attorney who presided over the Middle District of
Florida during Al-Arian's original criminal trial - a "white-collar
terrorist," makes the government's failures all the worse.

==

II. To read/view the special 10-page spread on Dr. Sami Al-Arian's
case in this month's Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
magazine, please see the links below:

Despite Acquittal, No Prospect of Release for Dr. Al-Arian
http://wrmea.com/archives/April_2007/0704024.html

Suffering—and Strength—Extends to Family as Well
http://wrmea.com/archives/April_2007/0704026.html

Despite His Ordeal, Dr. Sami Al-Arian Has Confidence in American
Justice
http://wrmea.com/archives/April_2007/0704028.html

Prosecutor Gordon Kromberg Displays Anti-Arab, Anti-Muslim Bias
http://wrmea.com/archives/April_2007/0704030.html

"We Shall Overcome"
http://wrmea.com/archives/April_2007/0704032.html

==

III.  AL-ARIAN ENDS PRISON HUNGER STRIKE
By Tim Wheeler, People's Weekly World

WASHINGTON- Dr. Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian activist, ended his 60-
day hunger strike at a Federal prison  hospital in North Carolina,
March 24, bowing to his children's pleas that he not risk death
protesting his unjust imprisonment.

His wife, Nahla, and daughter, Laila, were at his side during a
prison news conference when he announced an end to the water-only
fast. He lost 54 pounds or 25 percent of his body weight during the
two-month ordeal.

Mahdi Bray, executive director of the  MAS Freedom Foundation told
the news conference, "Dr. Al-Arian was never convicted by a jury of
his peers of any wrongdoing or crime. It is time that our government
respects the jury's verdict and release him. The sacrifice that Dr.
Al-Arian and his family have made in the cause of justice compels us
to work more intensely for his unconditional release so that he can
be reunited with his family."

In a telephone interview from the Al-Arian home in Tampa, Nahla Al-
Arian told the World, "We visited him in the prison hospital and
insisted he stop the hunger strike because he had reached a very
critical, dangerous phase of the fast."

The younger children, 13 and 16 years old, she added, "were
horrified when they saw their father. They told him they needed his
love. They needed him alive. We convinced him that everyone knows
about his situation. He received messages of support from everywhere
in the world as well as from across the U.S."

A documentary film about Dr. Al-Arian's plight was recently shown to
the Norwegian parliament.

Al-Arian, a former computer science professor at the University of
South Florida in Tampa, began the fast at a County jail in Virginia
to protest the Justice Department's attempt to force him to testify
before a grand jury. He argued that it violated a plea agreement he
signed last year in which he pleaded no contest to charges he had
assisted a Palestinian group, Islamic Jihad. In exchange, the
government agreed to release him from prison and deport him April
13, 2007.  When he refused to testify, Federal Judge Gerald Lee,
sentenced him to 18 months for contempt.

Al-Arian was recently transferred to the Federal prison hospital in
North Carolina when he fainted from weakness in the Virginia jail.

Nahla Al-Arian pointed out that a twelve member jury in Tampa, in
Dec. 2005, refused to convict Al-Arian of any of the 51 charges
leveled by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. The sensational case
was a centerpiece of the Bush administration's hysteria-
mongering "war on terror."

The Tampa jurors found Al-Arian innocent of eight criminal charges
including that he belonged to a "front group" that funneled
financial  contributions to "terrorists" in Palestine. But the jury
deadlocked when two of the jurors refused to go along with
the majority in acquitting Al-Arian and three co-defendants on nine
lesser charges.

Judge Moody then "aborted the jury's deliberations." Ever since, the
Bush Justice Department has flagrantly violated the "innocent until
proven guilty" rule in holding Al-Arian in prison.

Nahla, mother of five children and a U.S. citizen, has waged a
determined struggle to win freedom for her husband. "I could not
have held up without the support of my fellow Americans," she
said. "The people have given us support throughout, rallied for us,
written to the Justice Department and their Congressmen. I am so
grateful for all they have done."

There is misunderstanding about the plea agreement, she said. "Look
at the `Statement of Facts' in that plea. There was no crime
committed. They exploited the climate of fear to crack down on
political activists to silence them and to prevent them from
exercising their political rights, freedom of association, freedom
of speech, freedom of assembly. The government targeted Palestinian
activists who need those rights more than anyone else in the
world."

She said she is resigned to going into exile with her husband and
two younger children when Sami is freed. Her three older children,
two in graduate school and the third a journalist, would remain in
the U.S.

The next step in Al-Arian's struggle, she said, is to convince Judge
Lee to lift the 18-month contempt sentence.  "Sami and his lawyers
will tell the Judge that Sami is not going to change his mind.
Ordering him to testify is contrary to the plea agreement we signed
last year."

She concluded, "People who want to help us win justice, go to our
website `freesamialarian.com.' You can read about our case and look
for what you can do to help."

===

IV. Nahla Al-Arian was one of the guests on the Tampa Bay area radio
show True Talk (88.5 FM) on Mar. 23. Please click here to download
the show:
http://www.wmnf.org/programs/show/256

===END.

The Freedom Archives
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www.freedomarchives.org 
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