[Ppnews] Update - Sami Al-Arian is freed on bail

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Sep 4 10:34:45 EDT 2008

September 3, 2008

Dr. Sami Al-Arian is freed on bail

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

American Muslim civil rights groups have welcomed the release on bail 
of Dr. Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian political activist and former 
professor of the University of South Florida.

Dr. Al-Arain had been in federal custody for more than five years and 
was released in Virginia today after Immigrations and Customs 
Enforcement (ICE) agreed with his attorneys that to hold him was a 
violation of his constitutional rights.  Al-Arian had been held by 
ICE for 130 days and the legal limit was 90 days.

In July, Federal judge Leonie Brinkema ordered him freed on bail to 
await trial for a criminal contempt charge for refusing to testify to 
a federal grand jury. Al-Arian had completed a 57-month sentence a 
year ago for a single charge (in plea bargain) of providing services 
to people associated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

But he was never freed from federal custody. Instead, he was held in 
prison on a civil contempt charge by federal prosecutors in Virginia 
and then by immigration after his sentence ended.
American Muslim Voice (AMV) Founding Executive Director, Samina 
Faheem Sundas, while welcoming Dr. Al-Arian's release expressed hope 
that justice would ultimately prevail as the prosecution has tried to 
misuse the justice system to keep him behind the bars.  "We welcome 
Dr. Al-Arian's release and hope that it is an indication that justice 
may ultimately be served in this disturbing case," said CAIR 
Executive Director Nihad Awad.

Welcoming the news of his release Dr. Agha Saeed, Chairman of 
American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT) 
said:"This is an important step toward restoration of due process and 
equal justice for all".   The Muslim Public Affairs Council welcoming 
the release of Dr. Sami Al-Arian pointed out that since his arrest 
five years ago, his case has become an example of what many American 
Muslims perceived to be numerous post-9/11 political persecutions of 
individuals using tactics that amount to little more than guilt by association.

Dr. Al-Arian will be restricted to home detention while he awaits 
trial for contempt of court in December. Immigration authorities 
released Al-Arian hours before a federal judge had ordered the agency 
to explain his continued detention.

Dr. Al-Arian's release came days after his attorneys filed a petition 
for habeas corpus to demand that the Department of Justice and the 
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) release him on bail as 
ordered by a federal judge.

Dr. Al-Arian's original sentence - which the government had willfully 
extended for over a year beyond the original release date - ended on 
April 11 of this year, at which point Dr. Al-Arian was transferred to 
the jurisdiction of ICE for deportation. Shortly thereafter, the US 
Attorneys office indicted Dr. Al-Arian on two counts of criminal 
contempt for failing to testify in an unrelated case. Despite the 
fact that a federal judge ordered Dr. Al-Arian released on bail on 
July 10, and again reaffirmed this decision on August 8, ICE has 
brazenly ignored the judge's pronouncement.

The motion by Professor Jonathan Turley and attorneys William Olson 
and P.J. Meitl stated:

"Dr. Al-Arian has been held well past the ninety day period allowed 
under the statue [which allows ICE to hold immigrants up to ninety 
days while completing deportation procedures]. In fact, as of the 
date of this filing, Dr. Al-Arian has been held by ICE for 130 days. 
Dr. Al-Arian has not been removed and continues to languish in 
detention. Dr. Al-Arian's removal to Egypt is not significantly 
likely to occur in the reasonably foreseeable future, given the 
pending criminal charges against him and the pattern of behavior 
already demonstrated by ICE individuals. The Supreme Court held in 
Zadvydas and Clark v Martinez 543 US 371 (2005) that ICE's continued 
detention of someone like Dr. Al-Arian is unlawful."

The motion also stated that Dr. Al-Arian's attorneys have contacted 
immigration authorities in writing on seven different occasions, 
regarding Dr. Al-Arian's continued detention, receiving no responses 
whatsoever. On Friday, Judge Brinkema has given the government until 
Tuesday September 2 to submit a response.

Dr Al-Arian was arrested in 2003 on bloated charges of funding 
terrorism. In December 2005, after 10 years of federal investigation 
and a six-month trial, which cost the taxpayers 50 million dollars, a 
Florida jury refused to return a single guilty verdict against Dr. 
Al-Arian. The jury acquitted him of 8 of the 17 charges brought 
against him and was hung on the remaining charges. The trial 
"featured eighty government witnesses (including twenty-one from 
Israel) and 400 intercepted phone calls (the result of a decade of 
surveillance and half a million recorded calls). In April 2006, Dr. 
Al-Arian, in a plea bargain, pleaded guilty to a single non-terrorism 
related count of conspiracy and agreed to be deported.

Despite the U.S. government's representation that Dr. Al-Arian would 
not be compelled to testify against others, Dr. Al-Arian was 
subpoenaed and jailed for refusing to testify against others.  Even 
after a civil contempt charge was lifted in 2007, the Justice 
Department again subpoenaed Dr. Al-Arian to testify before another 
grand jury in 2008. He currently faces contempt of court charges in 
federal court in Virginia for failing to testify to a grand jury.

Authors Bio: Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: 
Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & 
Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 American. Currently 
working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American Muslim 
Perspective: www.amperspective.com

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