[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


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 media’s radar, bringing 
absolutely no comment on the network news and talk shows.

That’s known as clever public 
relations.  Announce the bad news on a day when it won’t 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 
Department’s 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.

I’ve had some experience in court with U.S. 
Attorneys.  What I know about how they operate is 
that if they don’t 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 wasn’t 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 prosecution’s case, Al Arian’s 
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 jury’s 
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

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