[Ppnews] Al Arian - Where's the Justice at the Justice Department?
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon May 4 11:51:12 EDT 2009
May 4, 2009
Where's the Justice at the Justice Department?
The AIPAC Spy Case
By JAMES G. ABOUREZK
The big news last week was the defection of
Republican Senator Arlen Specter to the
Democrats; the bankruptcy filing of the Chrysler
Corporation, and finally, the retirement of
Justice David Souter from the U.S. Supreme Court.
A much smaller news item competing with these
sensational stories was that the U.S. Justice
Department announced that it is dropping the
espionage charges against two former AIPAC
agents. The story was so small that it barely
was a blip on the medias radar, bringing
absolutely no comment on the network news and talk shows.
Thats known as clever public
relations. Announce the bad news on a day when it wont be noticed.
Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman had been charged
in 2005 with the crime of espionage;
specifically, handing over to Israel secret
information they had retrieved from Larry
Franklin, who was then a policy analyst in the
U.S. Defense Department, working for Douglas Feith and for Paul Wolfowitz.
Franklin pleaded guilty to relaying top secret
information on Iran to Rosen and Weissman, and
was sentenced to 12 years and 7 months in prison,
a term he is currently serving.
In the New York Times story detailing the Justice
Departments decision to drop the charges against
Rosen and Weissman, the prosecutors claimed that
the presiding federal judge, T.S. Ellis III, had
raised the bar for the prosecution to prove its
case against the two to a level they did not
believe they could meet. The Judge said that the
prosecutors could only prevail if they could
prove that Rosen and Weissman knew that their
distribution of the information would harm U.S.
National Security. That was enough to make them dismiss the charges.
No one in the headquarters of the Justice
Department took part in the announcement, but it
was made by the prosecutors themselves,
presumably the U.S. Attorney in charge of prosecution.
Ive had some experience in court with U.S.
Attorneys. What I know about how they operate is
that if they dont have a case, they will bring
so many charges that forces the unlucky Defendant
to plead guilty to at least one or two of them.
I would like to turn now the case of Sami
Al-Arian, who was a college professor in
Florida. Sami is a Palestinian, born in
Kuwait. And why wasnt he born in Palestine like
a good Palestinian should be? Because, most
likely, his parents were chased out of Palestine
when Israel undertook its ethnic cleansing of
that land in order to create an exclusive Jewish state.
Al Arian was charged in 2005 in a 50 count
indictment essentially with a plethora of
terrorism charges. The trial lasted six months,
with some 80 witnesses and 400 transcripts of
intercepted phone conversations and faxes.
At the end of the prosecutions case, Al Arians
lawyers rested without offering any evidence or
witnesses in his defense. After 13 days of
deliberation, the jury acquitted Al Arian on 8 of
17 counts, and deadlocked on the other with 10 to
2 favoring acquittal. Two of the co-defendants
charged along with Al Arian were totally acquitted.
Undaunted, the Justice Department
prosecutors said they were considering re-trying
Al Arian on the deadlocked jury charges, one of which carried a life sentence.
Rather than fighting on, Al Arian agreed to plead
guilty to one count of conspiracy to contribute
services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian
Islamic Jihad (which is designated as a terrorist
organization, but which the FBI admitted during
trial had never carried out an attack outside of
Israel. The United States has designated a
number of Palestinian liberation groups as
terrorists at the behest of Israelgroups that
have never attacked the United States).
Al Arian had spent years in solitary confinement
awaiting his trial. As part of his plea
agreement the prosecution agreed not to charge Al
Arian with any other crimes, and Al Arian agreed to expedited deportation.
He was, however, nearly re-charged when he
refused to testify against another Palestinian
organization. He went on a hunger strike,
dangerous for a diabetic, but finally the
prosecutors agreed that the agreement exempted
him from testifying in other cases.
One would have thought that, following the jurys
decision, the bar set by the jury in the Al Arian
case would be so high that the prosecution would
finally leave him alone. But there is apparently
a difference between a Palestinian patriot and
Americans spying for Israel. One group has a
powerful lobby in Washington, and the other has
nothing, except the urging of that powerful lobby
to go after any Palestinian activist with
criminal charges or anything else they can get their hands on.
The question is: Can you find the justice in the Justice Department?
James G. Abourezk is a lawyer practicing in South
Dakota. He is a former United States senator and
the author of two books,
and a co-author of
Different Eyes. This article also runs in the
current issue of Washington Report For Middle
East Affairs. Abourezk can be reached at
<mailto:georgepatton45 at gmail.com>georgepatton45 at gmail.com
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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